More Thai women are in the "never-married" category than ever before and more than half prefer to remain single, according to a study conducted by Chulalongkorn University College of Population Studies (CPS).
A study of 9,457 women aged 15-49 from 15,222 households nationwide found that 9% have never been married, a 5.5-percentage-point rise from 2001.
The research found the percentage of never-married women aged 45-49 has increased from 5% in 2001 to 6.5%, while the number of never-married women aged 40-44 has risen from 6% in 2001 to 8%.
"What surprises us is the figure of never-married women aged between 35-39 which has increased sharply to 12% from about 7% in 2001. This reflects the fact that younger women are less likely to get married," Attaporn Sukoltamarn, a lecturer at CPS, said.
He said 62.4% of never-married women aged between 35-39, 66.5% of never-married women aged 40-44 and 75.8% of never-married women aged 45-49, respectively, say they have no intention of getting married.
Ms Attaporn said the two key factors in a woman's decision to remain unmarried are higher education and less pressure from society to get married.
"Thai parents seem to give priority to education rather than pressuring their daughters to tie the knot," said Ms Attaporn.
Another factor that makes women choose to be single is they may not have found the right person, she said.
Ms Attaporn said working women nowadays prefer to focus on their careers and their chances to travel the world. This lifestyle gives them less chance of finding a life partner.
She said the average age of Thai women getting married is now 25, but the figure is likely to grow if this trend continues.
"About 75% of married women in our study also believed they can live a happy life without having children," Ms Attaporn said.
Vipan Prachuabmor, dean of CPS, said the decline of marriage indicates that Thailand is facing a risk of a population-age imbalance.
The level of fertility, referring to births per woman, is now at the lowest in Thai history, he said.
The total fertility rate dropped from more than six births per woman before 1970 to 1.86 in 2001 and to 1.69 at present.
"Thailand has the highest proportion of elderly people out of all developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region," Ms Vipan said.
"Our elderly are not being sufficiently replaced by new citizens, so we must plan for good welfare, health care and financial security for the elderly."
Ms Vipan said the government and private sector need to work hand-in-hand to handle the ageing society challenge.
For example, private companies should be encouraged to hire elderly workers.
Some tax incentives may be required to get companies to adjust their working environments and improve labour productivity, and promote technological advancement.
She said the government should provide more action plans on how to maintain the the ebbing fertility rate, she said.
The government has voiced concern about Thailand becoming a greying society like other Asian nations such as Japan.
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