Thai­land bets on ‘magic pills’ to boost births

In Bangkok, of­fi­cials give out folic acid, iron pills to en­tice cou­ples pre­pare for pregnancy

Gulf News - - Asia / Philippines -

Thai­land has tried cash bonuses and tax in­cen­tives to boost the coun­try’s birth rate, but on Valen­tine’s Day to­day it adopted a new ap­proach — hand­ing out vi­ta­min pills.

Like sev­eral other Asian coun­tries, Thai­land is age­ing rapidly. Birth rates have dropped sharply from more than 6 chil­dren per woman in 1960 to 1.5 in 2015, ac­cord­ing to World Bank fig­ures.

In Bangkok, health of­fi­cials handed out folic acid and iron pills in pink boxes at six lo­ca­tions to en­tice cou­ples to pre­pare for pregnancy. The pills came with leaflets ex­plain­ing how to be healthy in or­der to con­ceive.

Re­la­tion­ships and sex were pre­vi­ously a taboo sub­ject but at­ti­tudes have changed and they are now dis­cussed more pub­licly.

Still, health ex­perts say Thai­land will have to talk even more about con­cep­tion and birth if it wants to boost its pop­u­la­tion.

To­gether with China, the coun­try has the high­est pro­por­tion of el­derly peo­ple of any de­vel­op­ing coun­try in East Asia, World Bank fig­ures show.

The pop­u­la­tion has peaked and will be­gin to de­crease in 2030, point­ing to po­ten­tial eco­nomic prob­lems, such as labour short­ages and a smaller base of in­come tax pay­ers as the work­ing-age pop­u­la­tion shrinks.

Suc­ces­sive Thai gov­ern­ments have in­tro­duced var­i­ous schemes to en­cour­age baby­mak­ing but, like in neigh­bour­ing Sin­ga­pore, whose birth rate is among the low­est in the world, they haven’t seen much suc­cess.


A pub­lic health of­fi­cer gives prenatal vi­ta­mins to a cou­ple on Valen­tine’s Day in Bangkok, Thai­land yes­ter­day.

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