Society, Population and Family Changes
Thailand has been experiencing rapid demographic and socio-economic changes since World War 2. Thailand entered a demographic transition when mortality rates began declining steadily due to improvements in public health in combination with economic expansion and increasingly involvement of international development agencies. Initially, birth rates remained high at pre-transition levels and the population growth rate increased rapidly. As a result, demographic pressure led to a national government policy for effective family planning to reduce family size.
Since this time, fertility in Thailand has declined to sub-replacement levels. This rapid transition is leading to significant changes in the population structure. Thailand is shifting from what was a “young” population forty to fifty years ago to an “older” population. This transition is occurring at a time of intensifying migration also which further complicates the changes in society.
In addition to the demographic phenomena, Thailand is highly exposed to the globalisation process and this is further accelerating social change such as in the areas of family values and marriage. New models of co-habitation and altered family functions have emerged.
Demographic and family transitions are two inter-related dimensions. For instance, contraception to limit reproduction or delay marriage can be seen as a response to the increased size of the population and economic challenges. This behavior inevitably has consequences for models and functions of the family. Studies of the change in population and the family should therefore be conducted in parallel and analysed in a joint context.
The Institute for Population and Social Research (IPSR) has long recognised the importance of understanding these changes in the population and the family and has designated the topic of “Thai Society and Changes in Population and Family” as the focus of one of the key research clusters of IPSR. The key objective of this cluster is to increase the body of knowledge on population, family and society as applied to public issues and policy formulation. In this way Thailand may create a better position to adapt appropriately to the changes that have already been set in motion. This research cluster has two areas of investigation: (1) Demographic change; and (2) Transitions in the family. The cluster looks at how these phenomena interact with each other and impact on the society as a whole.
Area 1: Demographic Change
In past decades, there has been a large volume of research conducted in Thailand by various institutions and scholars, including IPSR. Many of these studies researched causes and patterns of declining Thai fertility. However, there has not been enough investigation into the impact of small family size on individuals, the family and Thai society at large. In order to inform development policy, it is imperative there be a comprehensive understanding of the potential impacts of lower-than-replacement fertility rates on Thai society. IPSR research in this area will therefore focus on surveillance and illumination of the trends of fertility change. Studies will also examine the macro and micro impacts of sub-replacement fertility.
Area 2: Changes in Various Dimensions of the Family
Research in this area will look broadly at the full range of family issues more widely but will also focus on four dimensions in particular: (1) Family formation and family dissolution; (2) Structure and function of the family; (3) Family responses to socio-economic changes; and (4) Impacts of family change on family members and society.
Conceptual Framework: Research Cluster 1
Thai Society and Changes in the Population and the Family