In the vibrant and bustling nation of Thailand, the issue of a shrinking birth rate has garnered the concerned attention of Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew. After a dialogue with the ministry’s highest-ranking officials on a recent Friday, he indicated that championing a boost in birth rates is among the top-priority initiatives with an optimistic target set to produce noticeable results within the next 100 days.
According to Dr Cholnan, a healthy birth rate for Thailand’s population, quite like other places around the globe, should be around 2.1 births per 100,000 people. However, stats display a bleak picture with Thailand languishing at just 1.5 births per 100,000. To put this into perspective, Thailand ought to celebrate the arrival of roughly 2 million new smiles each year, but the reality whirls around a much lower figure, with annual newborns barely breaching the 500,000 mark.
A diminished fertility rate could serve a blow to the nation’s workforce, eventually leading to a considerable portion, nearly 20% of the total population, falling into the categorization of senior citizens. This shift in the population pyramid could very well declare Thailand a ‘super-aged’ society.
Minister Cholnan harps on the urgency and magnitude of the situation, underlining that crafting a solution to revive the drooping birth rate is a task requiring time and careful planning. He also mentioned the prospect of scheduling this issue on the national agenda during discussions with the Premier. Further, he suggested that government assistance could play a decisive role. This could be in the form of extending support towards tuition fees for second and third children until they conclude their university education, or augmenting the allowance for newborn babies from the current 600 baht to 3,000 baht per month until they turn six years old.
On the same note, Dr Prateep Thanakijcharoen, Secretary-General of the National Health Commission Office (NHCO), drew attention to this issue at a seminar about low fertility hosted by the Health Assembly on that same Friday. He underscored that a dwindling fertility rate is no minor concern. On the contrary, it risks spiraling into a crisis affecting not only the economy and society but also the health infrastructure of Thailand.
Compound this gravitas with data showing an alarming upsurge in the number of deaths, surpassing the birth rate and you get a daunting situation that needs urgent attention. Reported figures show deaths in 2021 were around 560,000 and escalated to 595,965 in 2022, whereas newborns, on the other hand, dropped from 540,000 in 2021 to just 502,107 births in the last year. Dr Prateep warned that if this issue remains unattended, it could transform the country’s demographic balance, with an aged society crippling the industrial sector’s competitiveness. The mighty kingdom of Thailand, he stressed, requires a renewed emphasis on its younger generation to balance out its burgeoning pool of ageing citizens.