Each Thai family should aim to have at least two children to help halt the country's falling birthrate, Thailand's most senior health official said on Tuesday, which is the UN's World Population Day.
Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Department of Health, said there had been at least one million births in Thaiiland each year from 1963 to 1983, but the birthrate fell to 502,107 last year and is likely to be below 500,000 this year.
Simiar falling birthrates had been reported by 120 other countries, including China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam in Thailand's immediate area, Dr Suwannachai said
At the same time, the number of elderly citizens is rising. In 2021 Thailand became an aged society with people 60 years or more constituting 20% of its population. By 2036 the country would be a hyper-aged society, with senior citizens making up 30% of its population, if the trend continued.
"2023 is the first year when the number of people becoming of working age, 20-24 years old, cannot make up for the number of people leaving the workforce at age 60-64 years," Dr Suwannachai said.
Since 2016, the government had tried to encourage people to have more children but these measures had not worked, he said. Recent measures included the opening of more nurseries, improved rights to materinity and parternity leave, work-from-home policies and flexible working hours.
The government also postponed compulsory retirement and promoted retirement savings and vocational programmes to help cope with an aged society, Dr Suwannachai said.
Boonyarit Sukrat, director of the Bureau of Reproductive Health, said the desired increase in the Thai population could not come in time to solve the shortage of workers, and that could affect gross domestic product and the security of the nation.
Importing workers of high potential could be one solution the government could invest in, Dr Boonyarit said.
World Population Day has been observed annually on July 11 since 1989 when it was launched by the United Nations Development Programme to raise awareness of global population issues.