Pornsak Bowornsrisuk pulls an umbrella towards him to shield his head of thick grey hair from the blazing sunshine at the Bangkok bus terminal where he records bus arrivals and departures.
Such scenes will only become more common in Thailand as its population rapidly ages, unlike its neighbours Malaysia and Singapore with more youthful populations. The World Bank estimates the working-age population will shrink by 11% by 2040, the fastest contraction among Southeast Asia’s developing countries.
The government is urging businesses to hire older people to soften the impact of the ageing workforce on productivity, as well as limit the rise in the cost of its modest pension scheme. The state paid 61.37 billion baht ($1.73 billion) in 2015 in pensions.
Thailand’s stage of economic development, the rising cost of living and education, and a population waiting longer to get married are among the reasons it is ageing more quickly than its neighbours. An effective contraception programme in the 1970s also played a part, said Sutayut Osornprasop, a human development specialist at the World Bank in Thailand.
Thailand’s fertility rate dropped to 1.5 in 2013 from 5.6 in 1970, according to United Nations data.