Thailand is currently facing several demographic challenges that are crucial for its aspiration to move beyond low or middle-income status. These challenges, when compared with global trends and examples from other countries, provide a comprehensive view of the situation.
Thailand's Demographic Scenario
- Population Dynamics: As of 2023, Thailand's population is approximately 71.8 million. The annual population growth rate is relatively low at around 0.15% to 0.25%. This slow growth rate indicates a shift towards lower fertility rates, a trend commonly seen in developing countries as they progress economically.
- Aging Population: A significant aspect of Thailand's demographic profile is its aging population. The median age in Thailand is 40.2 years as of 2023. The working-age share of the population is projected to decline from 71% in 2020 to 56% by 2060, indicating a nearly 30% decline in the working-age population. This trend poses challenges for the labor force and economic productivity.
- Labor Force: Thailand’s working-age population was 57 million in 2019, with 67% participating in the labor market. However, the aging population is likely to shrink the labor force, which was around 38 million in 2019. Efforts to expand the labor supply could counteract the shrinking labor force due to population aging.
Global Trends and Comparisons
- Global Aging Trend: Globally, the number of people aged 60 years and older is increasing rapidly. In 2019, this age group constituted 1 billion people globally, expected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030 and 2.1 billion by 2050. This trend is especially pronounced in developing countries.
- Healthcare Demand: With an aging population, there is an increased demand for primary health care and long-term care. This requires a larger and better-trained workforce and the need for more age-friendly physical and social environments.
- Opportunities in Aging: While the aging population presents challenges, it also offers opportunities. Older individuals can contribute significantly to their families, communities, and society, particularly if societies invest in healthy aging and adapt to demographic changes.
- Japan: Japan faces one of the most significant aging populations globally, leading to challenges in workforce sustainability and healthcare demands. Japan’s experience underscores the need for policies that support an aging workforce and innovative healthcare solutions.
- Italy and Poland: Both countries are experiencing aging populations, similar to Thailand. They face challenges in sustaining economic growth and healthcare systems, requiring reforms and investments in age-friendly infrastructure.
- China: China's one-child policy has led to a rapidly aging population, presenting challenges in labor force sustainability and social support systems. China's response to these demographic shifts offers lessons in policy adaptation and long-term planning.
Thailand’s demographic challenges, especially its aging population and low population growth, are crucial factors in its economic future. Learning from global trends and the experiences of countries like Japan, Italy, Poland, and China, Thailand needs to adapt its policies and infrastructure to support an aging population while fostering economic growth. Investments in healthcare, labor market reforms, and age-friendly social policies will be key to navigating these demographic transitions.