By KWANCHAI RUNGFAPAISARN
AN ACADEMIC at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) has pointed out four business sectors with huge potential to cash in on the transition of Thailand into an ageing society.
The four sectors are: food business; medical equipment; health service; and nursery and home-care services for seniors, TDRI research fellow Boonwara Sumano Chenphuengpawn said.
Speaking at the forum entitled “Ageing Society Business” held recently by Chandrakasem Rajabhat University, Boonwara said that the transition into an ageing society is recognised as a mega-trend.
In 2015, the ageing population around the world reached 901 million. It is anticipated that this number will reach 1.4 billion in 2030, and 2.1 billion in 2050.
The birth rate of women around the world started a big decline since the industrial revolution – from 5:1 in 1960 to only 2.5:1 in 2014.
Ageing society has been defined as particular societies where the ratio of senior population aged 60 and above has reached 10 per cent or more of the total population, or where 7 per cent and more of the total population are people aged 65 and above.
An aged society has been defined as a society where people aged 60 and above represent 20 per cent or more of total population, or people aged 65 and above represent 14 per cent or more of total population.
In Thailand, the ratio of senior citizens increased at a faster pace than in the rest of the world, up from 10.99 per cent in 2005 to 12.38 per cent in 2010, and up to 14.02 per cent in 2014, according to the World Bank. This is higher than the world’s rate for the increase in the senior population, which surged from 11.25 per cent in 2005 to 11.62 per cent in 2010, and to 12.34 per cent in 2014.
Over the past 10 years, the rate of ageing population in Thailand was at 2.7 per cent on average, which means Thailand is becoming an ageing society faster than the world average.
Boonwara said that food, medical equipment, health services, and nursery and home-care service for seniors will have high potential to cash in on the transition into an ageing society in Thailand and other countries around the world.
“The world population has increased dramatically, leading to greater demand for foods. People are enjoying longer life and are more health conscious. There is also greater demand for health foods and supplements,” she said.
“Thailand is quite strong in terms of resources and has a good landscape, which allows the country to produce a variety of agricultural products like rice, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and meats,” said Boonwara.
She noted that Thailand’s market for medical equipment had increased significantly from Bt25.92 billion in 2010 to Bt38 billion last year. However, 80 per cent of total medical equipment being used in Thailand needed to be imported from abroad, which led to a trade deficit of about Bt5 billion a year. “Complemented by other industries, such as rubber, Thailand is quite ready in terms of raw materials to be one of the production centres for medical products in order to supply the global market in the future,” she said.
Boonwara said that for the health-service business, Thailand is well prepared in terms of human resources and medical service institutes. There are currently about 529 private hospitals and medical clinics with Hospital Accreditation in Thailand, and another 29 with Joint Commission International standard, which works to improve patient safety and quality of healthcare in the international community.
“Thailand had the highest number of foreign patients in Asean in 2013, which was as high as 2.25 million. In 2011, the Kingdom earned up to US$2.03 billion from the health tourism sector, which is also the highest in Asean,” said Boonwara.
She said the Thai government should have a concrete policy towards senior citizens. They include granting support regulations, such as extending the retirement age of salaried workers, which is currently 60.