Health ministry will hire influencer mothers to encourage pregnancy
Thailand’s deputy health minister has said that his government will hire celebrities and influencers to encourage young couples to have children. The policy is one of several pro-natal measures being taken by the Thai government, as the country grapples with the consequences of a campaign to lower birth rates in the 1970s.
In an interview published by Thai newspaper Khaosod on Sunday, Deputy Minister of Public Health Satit Pitutecha said that bringing in these influencers is “just one example of a change in values” that the government is embracing.
“We must communicate through influential people in all walks of life [and] all family income bases” that the “concept of having a happy child” is “a good idea,” Pitutecha said.
Other measures highlighted by the minister include health checks for expectant mothers, increased welfare payments, and a proposed doubling of maternity leave from three to six months.
Thailand’s fertility drive comes at a critical time for the country’s future. Fifty years ago, Thai women would have an average of five children each, and amid concerns of overpopulation, the government in 1972 launched a campaign to drive down birth rates. One of the campaign’s key messages translated as “More babies, more poverty.”
Whether as a result of the campaign or not, birth rates fell, and the country’s fertility rate has dropped nearly fourfold to 1.51 last year. The country’s National Economic and Social Development Council recently predicted that by 2025, a fifth of Thailand’s population will be over 60 years old, and that the nation’s total population will fall from 70 million to 40 million in the years thereafter.
Reports in Thai media claim that the country’s economy simply does not incentivize parenthood, and that young people are choosing to avoid the financial “burden” of having kids. However, Pitutecha said that economic incentives can only go so far, citing the example of Singapore, which doles out lavish subsidies for each newborn child but has not managed to reverse its declining fertility rate.
“Money is not the only answer,” Pitutecha said. “This matter must be thought through the whole system. Values can be changed.”
Thailand is far from the only country wrestling with the issue of demographic decline. After decades of low birth rates, Japan’s population has begun to drop, and elderly people make up a larger share of the population there than anywhere else in the world. Birth rates throughout the European Union are also below replacement level, prompting debate over how to remedy the situation.
Thinkers and politicians in some Western European countries have presented increased immigration as a solution, despite few Europeans considering immigration beneficial to their countries. More conservative Central European countries like Hungary and Poland have encouraged their citizens to have more babies, while opposing immigration.