Ministry of Public Health partners with Kenan Foundation Asia and Organon Thailand to Remodel Demographic Structure Towards Sustainable and Inclusive Society
Thailand is facing severe population challenges. According to the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), the share of the elderly population will reach approximately 30% of the total population in 2037. This is partly due to the declining fertility rate, which has been below the replacement level for three decades and will continue to decrease. In 2020, the number of new births fell to 587,368 people—the first time Thailand has recorded annual births of fewer than 600,000. Moreover, the issue of population quality is no less, if not more, important than that of demographic structure. These critical issues will have significant implications for Thailand’s economy and society in the long run.
On October 19th, 2021, Kenan Foundation Asia facilitated the Remodeling Demographic Structure Towards Sustainable and Inclusive Society policy forum under the “Smart Family Planning for Women” project, in collaboration with Ministry of Public Health partners with Kenan Foundation Asia and Organon (Thailand) Ltd. During the forum, experts from the government, academic, and civil society sectors identified key gaps in smart family policy to pave the way for measures to shape the demographic structure, improve the population quality, and build smart families. This then led to the Policy Declaration Ceremony under the same project on November 18th, where relevant agencies shared their visions and jointly built a collaborative network to drive Thailand’s population policy.
Dr. Satit Pitutecha, Deputy Minister of Public Health delivered an opening speech for the ceremony, in which he expressed his vision and a strong intention to drive population policy towards a sustainable and inclusive society in Thailand. He also expressed the determination to enhance the country’s efforts to develop smart families and shape the demographic structure. “The key to moving Thailand forward is to develop the capacity of our people, which will have broad-based impacts on our economic and social development in the near future. Every one of us here might have different roles and responsibilities, but we all aim for the same goal—namely, to build smart families towards a sustainable society. I could not agree more that cross-sector collaboration is vital to ensuring the efficiency and sustainability of our mission.”
Based on the previous policy forum, demographic restructuring and population quality enhancing towards a sustainable economy and society require the following actions:
- Transformation of education to foster lifelong learning and promote resilience in handling global changes and disruptions
- Appointment of a host agency to execute the policy and build a sense of unity among multi-sector stakeholders
- Increasing awareness, accessibility, and affordability to education, social, and health services
- Adoption of the life course approach as a basis for policymaking, with consideration of the multi-stage life and expansion of the life course concept beyond that of traditional families
These key topics served as a framework for the declaration ceremony, in which representatives from government, third-sector organizations, and agencies shared their visions. Participating organizations/agencies included the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, the Foundation of Thai Gerontology Research and Development Institute, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, and UN Women.
Dr. Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, Director-General of the Department of Health, remarked that “The challenges and urgency in dealing with demographic and population changes, including the growing number of elderly people, declining birth rates, increasing mortality rates, and concerns over the quality of life and economic stability amid the COVID-19 crisis, make it necessary for us to speed up our work on smart family planning and reproductive health to increase fertility rates in Thailand. Nonetheless, we need to consider both the demographic structure and the quality aspect of the population to ensure sustainable development.”
Mr. Koen C. Kruijtbosch, Managing Director at Organon (Thailand) Ltd., indicated that “the ceremony was an excellent opportunity for views, expertise, and experiences to be exchanged between key stakeholders in the government, civil society, international development, and private sectors, which would lead to cross-sector collaboration and integration to accelerate the execution of population policy through smart family planning for Thai women and Thailand’s sustainability. This event marks a powerful beginning that will help guide collaborative and sustainable practices for driving the policy continually in the future.”
Mr. Piyabutr Cholvijarn, President and Vice Chairman of Kenan Foundation Asia, emphasized that “the unbalanced demographic structure, with the declining birth rates and increasing elderly proportion, will certainly affect the overall economic and social development. While prevention of such effects can be done through smart family planning that fosters quality births and quality lives for people of all ages, comprehensive collaboration of all key stakeholders to address the issues is vital to sustainable economic and social development.”
The good intentions and generous support clearly visible at the ceremony will lead to a capable and collaborative network for driving initiatives to build smart families and remodel the demographic structure towards a resilient economy and society.