Thailand’s ‘Age’ Problem

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Thailand’s ‘Age’ Problem
Thai Business Box

Thailand’s ‘Age’ Problem

Written By - Patra Manas. 30-10-2020.

Thailand is facing two major issues revolving around age, an ageing population and a political crises which is emphasizing the age divide; both will effect the country economically in the long term.

Considered as one of the world’s rapidly aged societies, Thailand will become a full- fledged ageing society in 2021, when the number of people aged 60 and above would account for 20% of population and will rise to 28% by 2031 when the country becomes a super-aged society.

What are the implications of an ageing population? 

An older population presents many challenges to the workforce markets, government tax, government spending and the wider economy where an ageing population  tends to lower work-force participation, slows saving rates and eventually slows down economic growth.

Coupled with the growing workforce shortage, the rising expenses associated with ageing such as extra medication and hospitalization, poses real challenges for a country’s economy.

Other countries in Asia also facing ageing populations are Japan and China.

The world’s third largest economy, Japan, is facing a population ageing that could see the country lose it’s spot if it cannot maintain its level of production.

Some of Japan’s big industries-like motor vehicles and electronics-do not posses the workforce required to continue at the current level of production.

To make up for the tightening domestic workforce shortage, the government passed an amendment to the immigration law opening the door for foreign workers with a new regulation that saw two residence/visa status types for foreign individuals.

The government has also come up with the idea of an “age-free society” in which people aged 65 and older will not be considered senior citizens and will rather be encouraged to stay healthy and keep working. Continue Reading Below...

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In China’s case, policy makers fear the country’s ageing population will effect their country’s national development prospects and have put in place policies to ensure that ‘ageing’ will not derail the country’s prospects of economic growth.

To ensure that pension does not become a burden on the next generation of taxpayers  nor a burden on the national finances, pension promises have been kept at a modest level, while at the same time ensuring that the next generation of workers are better educated than their parents were. This ensured that future workers would be more productive and ready to enter more sophisticated economic sectors. 

The key difference between Japan’s and China’s policy in dealing with ageing population is the emphases on keeping the older generation healthy and re-skilled to remain active and productive or on making sure the younger generation are equipped with skills to be productive in more technologically advanced sectors.

Thailand should look at implementing a combination of both countries’ policies so as to not leave anybody behind or create a situation where one age group is a burden to another age group.

This could be done with substantial medical subsidies for the older generation who remain in the workforce and re-skilling and up-skilling both the older generation and younger generation to remain or enter the workforce productively.

For these policies to work all ages of Thai society need to work together. 

However, Thailand is facing a political crises which is making the age divide much more severe in its consequences. An age divide that may not go away and a government that is incapable of being a true ‘unifier’ of the country.

It’s ironic though because at the end of the day both the old and the young probably agree on more than they think.

Both sides would agree that a military backed government would not be the best option for taking the country forward economically, given the performance of the last 6 years which nobody can deny was not a stellar one.

Both sides agree that the monarchy institution is an important part of our political system which is a democracy under a constitutional monarchy.

The problem arises in the way the old and the new generation communicate.

The older generation tend to deal with taboo subjects by skirting the issue, speaking in  innuendos and leaving the young out of the discourse with remarks like “Rueng Kong Poo Yai” which means “ topics for the elders”.

The younger generation, brought up on internet and social media tend to keep their messages short, direct and to the point.

Both orbit in two different communication worlds where the other world feels like an alternate reality and disdain grows for the other side.

The older generation revere the monarchy who they feel the youth disrespect.

Who can Thailand turn to to reconcile the two? 

The age group in their 30’s and 40’s that is sandwiched between the two need to step up and play a more proactive role. Old enough to understand the ways and wisdom of the older generation yet young enough to see the progressive desires of the youth, the “sandwiched” generation can do much more to mitigate the situation without swinging to one side or the other. 

If Thailand cannot bridge this traditional vs new thinking gap between the age groups, all will eventually lose.