Thailand, People and Society
Indian king, Thai people, Southeast Asian countries, mosquitoes, population density
Thailand (known until 1939 as Siam) has never been heavily populated. In 1668 an Indian king was reported to have commented somewhat disparagingly to a Siamese visitor that “the King of Golconda is a king of men, while your king is only a king of the forests and the mosquitoes!” By the 1800s Thailand’s population remained low at 2,000,000, and by 1950 it had risen to only 20,041,628. By 2002 the total population had increased to 62,354,402, giving a population density of 122 persons per sq km (315 per sq mi), still one of the lowest in Asia.
Residents of cities are 22 percent of Thailand’s inhabitants. More than 10 percent is concentrated in Bangkok, where serious problems of overcrowding do exist. Since World War II, a significant number of rural Thai have moved from the countryside to cities in search of better economic opportunities. Many Thai people also have migrated abroad either on a permanent basis, mainly to the United States and Canada, or on a temporary one, as migrant laborers, to other Southeast Asian countries (such as Singapore) and to countries of the Middle East.
With an annual rate of population growth of 0.9 percent, Thailand’s population is expected to double in 78 years. However, family size is falling. The Thai have a long tradition of family planning and the use of contraception, which partly reflects the fact that women gain status through their ability to trade rather than through family size. In 2002 the birthrate was 16.4 births per 1,000 people, and the average number of children per woman was 1.9. The proportion of the Thai population that is elderly has grown in recent decades, with 7 percent of the population age 65 or older in 2002. This number is expected to reach 14 percent by 2025.
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