Single, no children: Thailand's future?

Single, no children: Thailand's future?

Future labour shortage from declining births sparks ideas: tax for unmarried people, subsidies for babies, more childcare centers, more productive workforce...

In a much publicized marriage, celebrity Tak Bongkot married billionaire business Khun Boonchai. Not having enough money to give a child a good life is one common reason for not having children. 


City singles in no hurry to tie the knot

SPECIAL REPORT: Record low birth rate spurs talk of subsidies for parents


Paritta Wangkiat

Twice a month, Varaporn meets her 29-year-old niece at a coffee shop in Bangkok to share their life stories.

Having a doctorate degree in education, Varaporn, who has just turned 54, has never felt ashamed about her unmarried status, even though she was brought up in a generation that put pressure on women to get hitched.

"I have a house, a car and a high academic status. What else do I need?" she said. "My life is complete."

Her niece, May, adopts a similar attitude. She has a partner but no ambition to have children.

"Having a kid is just too expensive," May said. "If I can't offer my kids the best care, I'd rather not have any."

The two urban women reflect a new stream of thinking in modern Thailand which has resulted in a considerably low birth rate compared to previous generations.

Recently, many were flabbergasted to hear reports of a suggestion made by Rangsit University economist Terdsak Chomtohsuwan that the government should provide subsidies to parents having their first child while introducing a tax on single people.

The academic reasoned that Thailand risks future labour shortages due to the low birth rate.

Although his idea was slammed by many, particularly in social media outlets, the fact is that Thailand is facing the risk of a population-age imbalance.

The total fertility rate (TFR), a direct measure of the level of fertility referring to births per woman, is now the lowest in Thai history, according to Pramote Prasartkul, of Mahidol University's Institution for Population and Social Research (IPSR).

The study found the birth rate has been declining rapidly since 1980.

The TFR dropped from more than six births per woman before 1970 to 1.6 at present.

In the Southeast Asian region, only Singapore has a lower TFR rate than Thailand at 1.2. Vietnam is at 1.8, Malaysia is at 2.6, and Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar are more than three.

"Personally, I think women's social status is higher. They gain good education," Mr Pramote said. "They don't want to make a commitment."

A 2013 survey from the National Statistic Office found 21% of Thai females aged over 15 remain single.

There were more than 1 million birth registrations each year over the past 45 years. But less than 800,000 babies were registered last year.

Urban women tend to prefer single status to those in rural areas. About 30% of Bangkok woman are single. More married couples are tending to decline to have kids as well, the survey found.

Due to the low TFR, the IPSR estimates people in the workforce aged between 15 and 59 years will decrease from 67% of the Thai population in 2010 to 55.1% in 2040.

"Still, I think the quantity of births is not as important as the quality of births," Mr Pramote said. "We must also plan for good welfare, health care and financial security for the elderly."

The 11th National Economic and Social Development Plan (2012-2016), approved by the cabinet last year, expresses concern about the change in demographic structure.

The plan focuses on improving the workforce's skills and expertise to meet emerging challenges as well as technology development.

Health Department director-general Pornthep Siriwanarangsan said the Public Health Ministry had a policy to encourage more births. While the policy is still being discussed, the concept is to encourage well-planned child deliveries along with suppression of teen pregnancies, he said.

The ministry plans to encourage more state-owned childcare centres nationwide. Dr Pornthep said mothers might benefit from tax deductions or gain incentives, under preliminary ideas being discussed.

"We want to assist mothers in child care," Dr Pornthep said.

"Having kids won't be a difficult matter. They [mothers] won't have to leave their jobs or pay high expenses to raise a child."

Besides the low birth rate, longer life expectancy is also a factor in Thailand's rapidly ageing society.

Thailand was classified as an ageing society in 2005 when the number of people aged over 60 reached 10% of the population.

This number is expected to reach 20% by 2027, by which time the country will be an "aged" society. People aged over 65 will reach 20% in 2031, which is classified as a "super aged" society.

Worawan Chandoevwit, a researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute, said the government must prepare measures to deal with its ageing society."It needs to create the system that can encourage more people to save," he said.

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  • academic: relating to education - เชิงวิชาการ
  • academic: someone who teaches at a college, or who studies as part of their job - นักวิชาการ
  • adopt: to accept or to start using something new - นำมาใช้
  • ageing: growing old - สูงวัยขึ้น
  • ambition: the desire or determination to be successful, rich, powerful, etc; something that you want to do or achieve very much - ความทะเยอทะยาน, ความปรารถนาอันแรงกล้า
  • approve: to give official permission - อนุมัต
  • ashamed: feeling guilty or embarrassed because you have done something wrong, or think that you have not reached a standard that people expect - ซึ่งละอายใจ, ที่รู้สึกผิด
  • assist: to help - ช่วย
  • attitude: someone’s opinions or feelings about something, especially as shown by their behaviour - ทัศนคติ, ลักษณะท่าทาง
  • benefit: an advantage you get from a situation; a helpful or good effect, or something intended to help - ผลประโยชน์, ข้อได้เปรียบ, ผลดี
  • billionaire: having more than a billion pounds, dollars (or a billion baht in Thailand) - คนที่รวยมากๆ มีทรัพย์สินพันล้านดอลล่าร์
  • birth rate: the number of babies born every year in a place - อัตราเกิด
  • cabinet: the group of government ministers who make and approve government policy - คณะรัฐมนตรี
  • care for: to look after somebody who is sick, very old, very young, etc. - ดูแล
  • celebrity: someone who is famous, especially in the entertainment business - คนมีชื่อเสียง
  • challenge: something that needs a lot of skill, energy, and determination to deal with or achieve - สิ่งที่ท้าทาย, การท้าทาย
  • childcare (noun): a service for looking after children while their parents work - บริการดูแลเด็ก
  • classified (adj): secret government information - ที่เป็นความลับทางราชการ, ที่เปิดเผยเฉพาะเจ้าหน้าที่เท่านั้น
  • common: ordinary; not unusual or special - ธรรมดา; สิ่งที่เห็นได้บ่อยๆ
  • complete (verb): to finish something; to bring some project to an end after having done everything successfully - ทำเสร็จ, ทำให้สมบูรณ์
  • concept: a principle or idea - ความคิด
  • concern: a worry - ความกังวล
  • considerably: much; a lot - มากมาย
  • deal with: to take action to solve a problem - จัดการปัญหา
  • deduction: the process of taking an amount of something, especially money, away from a total, in this case taxes; the amount that is taken away - การหักลบ
  • degree: the qualification obtained by students who successfully complete a university or college course - ปริญญา
  • delivery: a birth - การคลอดลูก
  • demographics: data relating to the population and different groups within it - สถิติประชากร
  • development: the gradual growth of something so that it becomes more advanced, stronger, etc - การพัฒนา
  • doctorate degree: the highest degree or qualification from a university - ปริญญาเอก
  • economist: a person who studies or writes about economics - นักเศรษฐศาสตร์
  • elderly: (of people) old - สูงวัย, อาวุโส, อายุมาก
  • emerge: to appear - ปรากฏออกมา
  • encourage: to cause someone to be more likely to happy - กระตุ้น
  • estimate: an amount that you guess or calculate using the information available - ประมาณการ
  • expenses: money spent in doing a particular job, or for a particular purpose - ค่าใช้จ่าย
  • expertise: a high level of knowledge or skill - ทักษะความรู้, ความคิดเห็นของผู้เชี่ยวชาญ
  • express: to tell someone about a feeling, opinion, or aim by speaking or writing about it - แสดงออก (ทางความคิดหรือความรู้สึก) โดยใช้คำพูดหรือการเขียน, พูดออกมา
  • factor: a fact or situation which influences the result of something - ปัจจัย
  • fertility (noun): the ability to have babies; how many babies women have in a country - ภาวะเจริญพันธุ์, อัตราการเกิดของประชากร,
  • financial: involving money - เกี่ยวกับเงิน, ทางการเงิน
  • flabbergasted: very surprised, shocked, speechless; dumbfounded -
  • focus: to give attention, effort, etc. to one particular subject, situation or person rather than another - เพ่งความสนใจ
  • generation: a group of people in society who are born and live around the same time - รุ่น (คนรุ่นต่างๆ)
  • get hitched: get married -
  • hurry (verb): going fast, doing something quickly - รีบ, รีบเร่ง, รีบไป
  • imbalance (noun): a situation in which the balance between two things is not equal or fair - ความไม่สมดุล, การขาดความสมดุล
  • incentive: something that makes you want to do something or work harder, because you know that you will benefit by doing this - สิ่งกระตุ้น
  • kid (noun): a child - เด็ก
  • matter: a situation or subject which is being dealt with or considered - เรื่อง, ภารกิจ, งาน
  • measure: an action taken to solve a particular problem - มาตรการ
  • nationwide: throughout a whole country - ทั่วทั้งประเทศ
  • niece: a daughter of your brother or sister, or a daughter of your husband’s or wife’s brother or sister - หลานสาว
  • outlet: a way in which emotion or energy can be expressed or made use of - ทางออก
  • partner: the person that you are married to or having a relationship with - คู่สมรส, คู่สามีหรือภรรยา
  • policy (noun): a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group - นโยบาย
  • population: a particular group of people or animals living in a particular area - กลุ่มที่อาศัยอยู่ในที่เดียวกัน
  • pregnancy: the state of being pregnant, having a baby developing inside - การตั้งท้อง
  • preliminary: early; not final - ขั้นต้น, ขั้นแรก, เบื้องต้น, ชั้นต้น
  • prepare (verb): put in order, get ready - เตรียม, เตรียมตัว, เตรียมพร้อม, จัดเตรียม, ตระเตรียม
  • pressure: to try to make someone do something by forcing, threatening, or persuading them in a determined way - กดดัน
  • previous: happening or existing before the event or object that you are talking about - แต่ก่อน, เมื่อก่อน
  • publicize (verb): to publish information about a person or thing; announce, broadcast - เผยแพร่, โฆษณา, ประกาศ
  • quality: the standard of something when it is compared to other things like it; how good or bad something is - คุณภาพ
  • quantity: a particular amount of something - ปริมาณ, จำนวน
  • rapidly: happening quickly - อย่างรวดเร็ว
  • reason: a fact that makes it right or fair to do something; the power of the mind to think in a logical way, to understand and have opinions, etc - ความมีเหตุผล, การใช้เหตุผล
  • reason: to form a judgement about a situation by considering the facts and using your power to think in a logical way - คิดคำนวณในใจ,สรุป,ชี้แจงเหตุผล
  • reflect: to show - สะท้อน แสดงถึง
  • researcher: a person who carriers out a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - นักวิจัย
  • risk: to cause someone or something to be in a dangerous situation - เสี่ยงอันตราย
  • save: keep money to for use in the future, not spending now - ออม
  • security: protection; safety from attack, harm, or damage - ความมั่นคง, ระบบรักษาความปลอดภั, ความปลอดภัย
  • share: to have or use something at the same time as someone else - ใช้ร่วมกัน
  • share: to have the same feelings, ideas, experiences, etc. as somebody else -
  • shortage (noun): when there is not enough of something - การขาดแคลน
  • similar: like somebody/something but not exactly the same - คล้ายกัน
  • single: unmarried - โสด
  • skill: the ability to do something well, usually as a result of experience and training - ฝีมือ, ทักษะ
  • slammed: strongly criticised - วิพากษ์วิจารณ์อย่างรุนแรง
  • social media: the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc. - เครือข่ายสังคมออนไลน์
  • society (noun): people in general, living together in communities - สังคม
  • spur: to cause something to happen - ก่อให้เกิด 
  • stature: reputation - ชื่อเสียง
  • status: social position - สถานะทางสังคม
  • stream (noun): a continuous flow of something, e.g., liquid, gas, inflormation or even people - การไหลต่อเนื่อง, กระแส
  • structure: the way in which the parts of something are connected together, arranged or organised - โครงสร้าง
  • subsidy: an amount of money that a government or organisation pays to help to reduce the cost of a product or service - เงินชดเชยที่รัฐเป็นผู้จ่ายให้
  • subsidy: an amount of money that the government or another organisation pays to help to reduce the cost of a service or product - เงินสนับสนุน (the verb form is subsidise)
  • suggestion: an idea or a plan that you mention for somebody else to think about - ข้อเสนอ, ข้อเสนอแนะ
  • suppression: the process of stopping a harmful activity through laws or by force - การใช้กฎหมายหรือกำลังยุติกระบวนการ หรือความรุนแรง
  • taxes: money that you have to pay to the government so that it can pay for public services - ภาษี
  • tie the knot: to get married -
  • urban: of or in a city or town - ในเมือง
  • welfare (noun): good care and living conditions - ความสะดวกสบาย, ความมีสุขภาพดี, สวัสดิภาพ
  • workforce: all the people who work for a particular company, organization, country, etc. - แรงงาน, คนทำงาน
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