Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Singlehood, hence childlessness, on the rise in Thailand

Fears for labour force as women shun marriage

Nearly half of Kingdom's women now single, demography expert tells seminar

Nearly half of Thai women are single, prompting concerns that as more women go childless, the country may face a labour shortage and end up having to import workers, a demographer said yesterday.
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Pramote quoted census findings that show that 22.7 per cent of Thai women aged between 15 and 49 years were single in 1970; the count went up to 25.7 per cent in 1980; 28.5 per cent in 1990 and to 31.8 per cent in 2000.

The number of single women older than 50 has risen, too, from 2.2 per cent in 1970 to 2.5 per cent in 1980; 3.1 per cent in 1990; and 4.5 per cent in 2000, he said. Based on these figures, it is estimated that 34-35 per cent of Thai women aged between 15 and 49 currently were single while the proportion of unmarried women above the age of 50 years had climbed as high as 10 per cent.Overall, Pramote put the percentage of Thai single women at about 44.

The main reason they were shying away from marriage was that their rise up society's status ladder had spawned a desire for greater independence, he said. And working harder and longer hours than previously left them with no time to look for boyfriends.

The census figures and the fact that 75 per cent of women use birth control has led the institute to estimate that currently the birth rate is 1.7 children per woman, compared to 6.3 in 1964; 4.9 in 1974; 2.7 in 1985; 2.2 in 1991 and two in 1996, he said.

With the birth rate having plunged below the two mark, the number of children was no longer sufficient to replace the preceding generation. This means Thailand will face a severe shortage of labour in the future, and might have to depend on immigrants, said Pramote.
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By 2022, its population will have risen to 65 million but, with the birth rate getting closer to the country's death rate, the population growth rate will dwindle to about zero, Somyos said, so that in about 15 years, the elderly would outnumber children in the country.

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