In Thailand, more people are living longer than ever before. This means a vast increase in a valuable resource to society: older people who work, who raise grandchildren, who volunteer their time in the community, and who are able to meaningfully share their culture and values with younger generations. With a small but nonetheless universal pension, and some meaningful engagement on population ageing at the government level; Thailand has begun the challenging process of meeting the needs of an ageing society. Significant challenges remain, largely due to the sheer rapidity and magnitude of the demographic ageing in Thailand, including work and education opportunities for older adults, long-term care plans for older people and establishing age-friendly housing. The government has revised and updated policies on ageing in line with the Madrid Plan for Action on Ageing (MIPAA), but existing laws and policies on ageing are not always put into practice.
In addition, HelpAge publishes Global AgeWatch Index that ranks countries by how well their ageing populations are faring. You can find data set of 96 countries, including country report card for Thailand.
Situation of older people
The number of older people is growing: Thailand is currently ranked the third most rapidly ageing population in the world[i]. The number of people aged 60 and over in Thailand now stands at about eight million, accounting for 13 percent of the population. Population ageing is a relatively new occurrence for Thailand; it was just in 2001 that Thailand became an ageing population with more than 7% of the population over 65[ii]. By 2040, Thailand’s aging population is expected to increase to 17 million, accounting for 25 percent of the population. This means that out of every four Thais, one will be a senior citizen[iii].
Care support for Older People: In practical terms, this demographic transition translates to challenges with care and support of older people. Data collected for The Situation of Older People in Thailand report in 2007 and again in 2011 show that the well-being of Thai older people has continued to improve[iv]. Overall only 15% of persons 60 and older indicated that they need some assistance with their daily living activities. This increases relatively slowly with age until 75, and quickly after that. As a generalization, as older people reach 75 and beyond, many require some care and support. Traditionally in Thailand, this was done at home. However, there is a shift to low fertility and an increase in migration of adult children to find employment. This lowers the ratio of working age adults who are able to support older people in their family. About 50% of older people do not have a child living in the same village/municipality and 16% have no living children. All of these changes mean that adult children cannot always meet the care and support needs of older people.
The future role of older persons in providing care to young dependent grandchildren is also subject to change as a result of demographic trends and perhaps normative change in the view of parenthood as well, although the latter is very difficult to predict.
Older people and poverty: While 75% of older Thais report that they are satisfied with their financial status[v], older people face a higher risk of poverty than average because of being unable to work and earning a lower income. In 2010, 10.9% of older people in Thailand were poor compared with 7.7% of the general population[vi]. An additional 7.1 % of older people are near poor; vulnerable to become poor in the event of even a small economic shock like a medical bill. The National Statistical Office report on Survey for working in Old Age (2011) show that about 33% of older people still work daily and 90.3% of them are working in informal sectors[vii]. Other key sources of income come from government pension or old age allowance, intergenerational exchanges or other family support.
Below are the key statistics on Thailand’s population of older people:
|Older people (total)||9,600,000||22,260,000|
|Older people as percentage of total population||13.7%||31.8%|
|Life expectancy (males)||71|
|Life expectancy (females)||78|
|Old age dependency ratio (ratio of people 60+ to those of working age)||16|
|Older people in poverty|
|Rural older people||71.4%|
|Urban older people||28.6%|
|Older people living alone (60-80)||7.7%|
|Older women as a percentage of the population aged 60+||55.4%|
National policy on older people: In 1991, as the United Nations Assembly recognized elderly rights with respect to autonomy, involvement, care, self-satisfaction and esteem, Thailand established the “National Committee of Senior Citizens.” The government’s current policies and programs are in line with the Second National Plan for Older Person (2002-2021).
This plan focused on the development of policies and programs to support older persons. Some successful program activities are highlighted:
- Promoting a positive attitude toward elderly persons
- Promoting health for the elderly
- Social protection for the elderly
The Second National Plan for Older Persons in Thailand is being successfully implemented and progress has been made at many levels toward building an aging-friendly society. The Thai government needs to continue to play an active role in facilitating the implementation of the plan and, just as importantly, there needs to be commitments from all participating sectors (public, private, municipalities) in order to achieve the identified aims set forth in the plan.
Health and care: The age-specific mortality rates of the Thai Population except among the highest age group have been declining for more than four decades. However, age-specific mortality rates have increased with age, with the highest in the age group of 70+ years in both sexes.
At primary health services in Thailand are provided through networks of “ Health Centres ” and Primary Care Units (PCU) run by The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and “ Community Health Centres ”, which are available only in Bangkok, are generally staffed by 1-3 physicians and allied personnel. These centers provide curative, preventive and promotive but rarely on rehabilitative services.
In 2001, in order to cover 22 percent of the total population who was not covered by any kind of health benefit scheme, the government announced the universal coverage policy on health care finance to cover the total population.
Older persons are valuable resources who should pass on wisdom and experience to younger generations. People should be aware of the importance of older persons, so that they should receive greater opportunities to make use of their knowledge and experience in working for society.
Older people’s associations: In order to promote good health among the elderly, the Government has encouraged the establishment of more clubs, or centers, where the elderly can join social activities and events in local communities. This will help promote physical and mental health among senior citizens.
Senior Citizens Council Of Thailand (SCCT) is in the process of setting up a mechanism to provide greater occupational opportunities for the elderly. It is working with both public and private sectors in providing funding sources for older persons to support their businesses.
Social pension: In 2009, the government made its social pension policy, The Old Age Allowance, universal[xii]. This provides greater income security for older persons. Though the sum is not high, the pension does serve a function as a social protection mechanism that is a dependable source of income regardless of economic condition. As such, it provides some protection from economic shocks, particularly for poor and near-poor older people.
Under the income support policy, older persons aged between 60 and 69, receive a monthly allowance of 600 baht. Those aged between 60 and 69 receive 700 baht, and the elderly, aged 70-79, receive 800 baht. A monthly allowance of 1,000 baht will be offered to persons aged 90 and over.
The Civil Society Network on National Pension (Thailand), which Foundation of Older Person’s Development (FOPDEV) and HelpAge International are part of, has drafted a new National Pension Act, to be proposed to the government after the next general election, which is expected to take place in 2017. The new Act aims to ensure that income security in old age is guaranteed as a basic human right, and to strengthen the old age pension system through :
- Improved coordination and integration of the different existing old age pension schemes
- Establishment of a national body to develop an overall old age pension policy and to regulate and further improve the overall old age pension systems
- Modification of the current Old Age Allowance to be a universal basic pension scheme with an improved benefit level based on the national poverty line
Coordinated by the civil society network core group, the new Act will be publicised to and shared with CSO networks across the country in order to secure public support that will be immensely important for the new Act’s approval.
The following are recent publications and resources related to the Thailand’s population of older people.
- Ageing in the 21st Century: A Celebration and A Challenge – Executive Summary (Thai)
- Smiling towards old age: Case study of Muang Yao older people’s group, Lampang province, Thailand (Thai)
- Building understanding of ageing issues through the media (Thai)
- The power of community in disaster risk reduction: Experience from Chainat province, Thailand (Thai)
- Cooperation between ASEAN and civil society on disaster management (Thai)
- Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing Summary (Thai)
- Global Age Watch Country Report
- Social Pension Watch
- The situation of Thailand’s older population
- The impact of the Old Age Allowance on the lives of older people and the local economy in Thailand
Our network: Foundation for Older Persons’ Development (FOPDEV)
[i] “Most Rapidly Ageing: Countries.” Bloomberg Visual Data: Bloomberg Best and Worst. Updated October 24, 2012
[ii] Knodel, John and Napaporn Chayovan, 2008. “Population Ageing and the Well-being of Older Persons in Thailand.” Populations Studies Center, University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research.
[iii] UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2001, World Population Ageing 1950-2050
[iv] Knodel, John and Napaporn Chayovan, 2013. “The Changing Well-being of Thai Elderly: An Update from the 2011 Survey of Older Persons in Thailand.” HelpAge International.[v] ibid
[vi] “Reducing Elderly Poverty in Thailand: The Role of Thailand’s Pension and Social Assistance Programs.” October, 2012. The World Bank.[vii] Knodel, John and Napaporn Chayovan, 2013. “The Changing Well-being of Thai Elderly: An Update from the 2011 Survey of Older Persons in Thailand.” HelpAge International.[viii] UNFPA and HelpAge International, 2012, Ageing in the 21st Century
[ix] Ibid.[x] Ibid.[xi] Ibid.[xii] “Reducing Elderly Poverty in Thailand: The Role of Thailand’s Pension and Social Assistance Programs.” October, 2012. The World Bank.