Aging Thailand takes toll on indebted households

Wed May 4, 2016 6:15pm EDT
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By Pairat Temphairojana

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai civil servant Supapan Pullbangyung spends just under half of her salary on caring for her 75-year-old father, who suffers from diabetes and dementia.

Hers is one of many Thai families looking after elderly relatives at a cost that countrywide adds up to just under a third of household income. The number of families facing similar problems will balloon as the population ages at a rate among the fastest in Southeast Asia.

Thailand's working-age population is expected to shrink by 11 percent by 2040.

The rising cost of care is an additional burden to households struggling with record debt that is a drag on consumption and stunting the economy.

"I struggled for months and it took a while to adjust," said Supapan, who lives in Nonthaburi province, just north of the capital, Bangkok.

Looking after her father costs at least 15,000 baht ($430) a month, she said, a little less than half what she earns.

A culture of filial piety in which families feel obliged to care for their elderly means more often than not they absorb the expense of looking after parents and grandparents.

A poor savings culture has left many people ill-prepared to help themselves financially in old age, meaning they must rely on working family members.   Continued...

An elderly man receives help from a nurse during a physical therapy session at Bangkhae Home Foundation in Bangkok, Thailand, April 27, 2016. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha