Thailand told to prepare for ageing public

Thanks;Pongphon Sarnsamal &
The Nation
Publication Date : 18-09-2013

Thailand and Asia-Pacific countries must ensure that elderly people will get access proper social security, healthcare services, pensions and transportation, as these societies are ageing quickly, a UN agency said yesterday.

They also need to stimulate young people to have more children, as every country requires a critical mass of young people to enhance their economy and make it competitive.

While population trends in Asia-Pacific countries and Thailand are not uniform, all these countries are faced with three main problems related to population growth: ageing societies, migration and urbanisation.

Moreover, these countries also face the issue of climate change, which affects the movement of people, especially those living along coastal areas, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) executive director Dr Babatunde Osotimehin said.

According to the UNFPA’s recent report, Thailand has quickly become an ageing society, because the birth rate has been gradually decreasing. Fifty years ago, a Thai mother had six children on average. Twenty years ago, the birth rate reduced to two children per mother. The current birth rate in Thailand stands at only 1.6 children.

The lower birth rate has social and economic implications for the country. For instance, a shrinking working-age population can affect the country’s productivity.

Lower birth rates tend to happen as part of the urbanisation process, with women gaining more education and better work opportunities. Among Asean countries, Thailand is now the second-most rapidly ageing society after Singapore. This poses a challenge for Thailand, as the country’s transition to an ageing society has been faster than in many countries, leaving less time for it to prepare.

“The government should do more to ensure that all people are included in its social-development agenda,” Osotimehin said.

He is visiting Thailand to preside over the Sixth Asian and Pacific Population Conference (APPC). Over 300 participants, including heads of state, ministers, senior officials, parliamentarians, civil society participants and representatives of United Nations organisations are attending the five-day conference, which began Tuesday. Its goal is to agree on joint action to address the broad range of challenges related to population and development in the region. They are also expected to adopt the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Population and Development.

Osotimehin met with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Public Health Minister Pradit Sintavanarong to encourage the government to do more to ensure that all people are included in the government’s social-development plan.

Osotimehin said he told Yingluck that the UNFPA is scheduled to release its “State of the Thai Population” report on October 30.

The report, which will include an assessment of adolescent pregnancy rates, is part of a global campaign undertaken by the agency.

Osotimehin said Thailand was doing a good job of making sure that everyone is included in the government’s social-development plans, as well as being lifted out of poverty. The UNFPA will coordinate with the government to reduce inequality to make sure that all people – including registered and non-registered migrant workers – can access basic services such as healthcare, he said.