While many foreigners have an image of Thailand as a country with a young and active population, the facts are proving otherwise. Thailand has the second-lowest fertility rate in ASEAN of 1.66 births per women estimated in 2013, just behind Singapore, and this has initiated a rapid aging process that experts see an a “demographic crisis” similar to Japan and Korea.
For the first time in its history, seniors will outnumber children under 15 by 2020, studies say. And experts fear that the country won’t be able to cope with the shift. By 2020, 25 per cent of the population will be over 60.
As a new Bank of America/Merrill Lynch report puts it, Thailand is “emerging as the old man” of Southeast Asia. The dangerous implication for its economy is that Thailand’s working-age population will already peak in 2017. So the labour force will start shrinking sooner than planned, falling 1.2 per cent between now and 2023, according to the report.
By about 2060, it is expected that Thailand’s working-age population shrinkage will have become the biggest in Asia. In the long run, this will make it hard for Thailand to compete with Philippines (whose population won’t peak until 2085) and Indonesia (2058).
Another pressing concern for Thailand’s government will be how to support the fast-growing aging population. Many of the country’s working poor have nothing to fall back on after they retire, and with the 500 Baht Universal Pension Scheme, or $16 a month, it just simply is not enough to make ends meet.