By THE NATION
The recent Chulalongkorn University College of Population Studies research surveying women aged between 15 and 49 found the average number of children wanted was 1.69, down from 1.86 in a similar survey in 2001.
When geographically categorised, it is clear that women living in rural areas want to have a higher number of children than city residents do. Bangkok women on average want to have 1.06 children each, while women in the Northeast want to have 2.3.
The survey also showed that the percentage of single women aged between 35 and 39 is growing.
“About 75 per cent of female respondents agree with the statement that they can have a good life even without children,” researcher Wiraporn Potisiri said.
The Public Health Ministry reported that about 700,000 children were born in the country last year, down from 800,000 in 2003.
“Trends suggest Thailand may see just 500,000 births in 2040,” Deputy Prime Minister General Chatchai Sarikulya said yesterday.
He was speaking at an event held to address the country’s falling birth rate and growing elderly population.
About 18 per cent of the population are over 60. Of elderly Thais, about one-third earn less than Bt30,000 a year. Most also suffer from chronic health problems such as blood-pressure issues and diabetes.
“We need to address these challenges and prepare efficient solutions,” Chatchai said.
He recommended that all relevant organisations join in helping the country handle its demographic challenges.
Nopphol Witvorapong, a scholar with Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Economics, said the government should consider motivational measures for women to boost the birth rate.
Among the possible measures are state subsidies, tax incentives, the provision of childcare centres, maternity and paternity leave, and flexible work schedules.
“Women, after all, are now expected to work and generate income,” Nopphol said.
He added that before introducing motivational measures, the government should also consider short-term and long-term fiscal impacts.
Asian Population Association president Professor Doo-Sub Kim said economic matters significantly affected fertility rates.
“Such impacts are evident in the wake of economic crisis,” he said.