Unlocking the Power of Demographic Disruptions

26 Jul 2023
Thailand is becoming a super-aged society, with the possibility that people aged over 65 comprising more than 50% of the total population in the next 60 years. Professor Kua Wongboonsin, Demographer and Advisor to the National Innovation Board of Thailand, and Sasin’s Associate Professor Piyachart Phiromswad recently gave presentations on “Unlocking the Power of Demographic Disruptions” at Sasin School of Management. They discussed how older adults are valuable assets to Thailand and how technology can help leverage their talents. Youths and young adults in Thailand now prioritize their career and financial stability before considering marriage or starting a family. This has led to a significant reduction in the average number of couples having children, with some couples facing difficulties conceiving a child. These shifting norms have resulted in 2021 being the first year in which Thailand experienced more deaths than births. Based on research on population projections and Total Fertility Rate (TFR), Professor Kua Wongboonsin discovered that:
  1. Thailand’s population will decrease from 66 million in 2023 to only 33 million in 2083.
  2. The working-age population (ages 15-64) will decrease from 46 million in 2023 to only 14 million in 2083.
  3. The young population (ages 0-14) will decrease from 10 million in 2023 to only 1 million in 2083.
  4. The country will be predominantly composed of elderly individuals (65+), increasing from 8 million in 2023 to 18 million in 2083, accounting for over 50% of the total population.
* The average age of the female and male population is based on data from the National Economic and Social Development Office and the World Population Prospect 2022. The assumption for the Total Fertility Rate (average number of children per woman aged 15-49) will be based on actual data for the year 2023 (which is 1.16) and will gradually decrease. By the year 2050, it will be adjusted to 0.7 (close to the fertility rate of South Korea in 2022, which is 0.78), and by the year 2083, it will be further adjusted to 0.5. During the discussion, Associate Professor Piyachart Phiromswad addressed the impact of reduced population on corporations, warning that there will be fewer consumers, and society will rely on older adults in the workforce. “Population aging will definitely be on the global agenda. I might argue that it is as important as the environment,” he said. He recently spoke about Developing Technology to Support the Elderly in the Workplace for Economic and Societal Progress at TED 2023: Possibility in Vancouver, Canada. Associate Professor Piyachart highlighted the advantages of having an aging population:
  1. Senior workers are entrepreneurs that are more productive in some jobs (Cai and Stoyanov (2016 ).
  2. Senior workers and entrepreneurs can be augmented with technology (Zhongming et al. (2018).
  3. Senior volunteers can help solve many social issues, so their skills can be leveraged by vocational training.
Businesses and technology sectors can be more involved in making it more convenient for older adults to work, including integrating technologies that would help them work better. “Just like how eyeglasses were created to help people with vision problems, technology can alleviate various obstacles in the workplace for older adults,” he said. Associate Professor Piyachart gave an example of exoskeleton technology, a wearable robotic device that can be worn to augment the physical capabilities of the human body. This technology can benefit teachers, doctors, manufacturer workers, and cashiers who need to stand for a long time or use their physical capacity when working. Another way of leveraging an aging society is to remove physical barriers that make it harder for them to work such as crowded public transportation and traffic congestion. He recommended remote working technology or the Metaverse that can eliminate those physical barriers. More applications are targeting the older adults, including GetSetUp, which has live classes for older adults taught by older adults. Moreover, he added that while older adults may have reduced cognitive ability, they can use ChatGPT as a companion to help them at work. By addressing demographic changes, and leveraging technology to support an aging society, Thailand and the rest of the world can ensure economic and societal progress.
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