Thailand to encourage families to have more children

BANGKOK: With Thailand’s birth rate plunging every year and an ever-growing ageing population impacting the economy, society and security, the government is tackling matters head-on with a campaign titled “Give Birth Great World” to encourage Thais to have more children.

The campaign, which is expected to be announced in March, came as Thailand's newborns reached the lowest level in 70 years with just 485,085 births in 2022. That figure is likely to fall even further, with the total fertility rate predicted to drop from 1.53 in 2020 to 1.3 in 2040.

Meanwhile, Thailand recorded 13.2 million people aged above 60 years in January this year, accounting for 20% of the total population. The elderly population is expected to reach 31%, or one-third of the total population, in 2040.

If the situation persists, the Thai population will drop to 33 million people in the next 60 years, triggering labour shortages and a lack of productivity.

The campaign also aims to boost workers' income for retirement. At present, the income replacement rate of Thai workers is just 39.3% of their pre-retirement income, lower than the International Labour Organisation's standard of 40%.

Only workers who pay contributions to the social security scheme and/or provident funds, or civil servants can cope with insufficient income for retirement.

The Give Birth Great World campaign focuses on offering subsidies to support the development of newborns until they become part of the potential workforce to boost Thailand's productivity.

The National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC) secretary-general, Danucha Pichayanan, said government agencies were brainstorming on how to make newborns become "high-quality workers" and mitigate their expense burden.

"A decline in newborns is not an issue, but we must help newborns to grow into workers with high productivity," he said, confirming that technology can be used to boost their productivity and drive the Thai economy.

Danucha outlined the measures currently under consideration. They are:

• Subsidies for in-vitro fertilisation which is currently under discussion with the Public Health Ministry

• Increasing tax waiver for families who have two or more children. For instance, families get a tax waiver of 60,000 baht (US$1,700) for one child, but this could increase to 150,000 baht if they have two children.

• Improving education quality at all levels to meet future demands, and offering appropriate upskilling/reskilling programmes for workers.

• Subsidies for families willing to upscale the education of their children, such as for extra classes and educational tools like computers.

• Launching an application to allow students to learn from potential teachers.

"It is necessary to start by building families' confidence because many countries like Japan, South Korea or Singapore have launched similar campaigns but not achieved success due to working stress and the new generations' demand for work-life balance," he said.

A source from the Finance Ministry said it is waiting for NESDC and Public Health Ministry's discussion on how to encourage families to have more children.

“The Finance Ministry is ready to consider measures to encourage families to have more children to deal with ageing society's impact on the social structure," the source said.

Meanwhile, Fiscal Policy Office director Pornchai Teerawet said the office has proposed measures to support the transition towards an ageing society, such as draft acts for the National Pension Fund and its policy committee.

The Board of Investment (BOI) secretary-general, Narit Therdsteerasukdi, confirmed that a decline in the Thai population and workforce will not affect foreign investors' confidence.

"Many companies have applied automation to their production because relying on workers alone cannot boost competitiveness," he said.

He said BOI has various measures to support companies in the industrial transition, such as offering long-term resident (LTR) visas to high-potential workers who come to Thailand and organising personnel training to meet the private sector's demand.

He added that investors have asked BOI to offer language training to allow Thai workers to speak English fluently.

“In itself, a smaller population and thus a smaller labour force does not affect investors' decision-making, but we have to accelerate upskilling the workforce so they can meet higher demand, such as in the digital and semiconductor fields," he said. - The Nation/ANN

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Thailand , birthrate , children , incentives


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