11 July 2024

The increase in those choosing to remain single is a global phenomenon. In Thailand, a recent survey indicates that more and more people are opting for the single life.

They say being single enables them to be more focused on their personal growth and goals and gives them greater opportunities to become more independent and leave traditional norms behind.

The Thai government is being urged to work harder to help couples find love, encourage marriage and reverse its plunging birth rates and thus reduce adverse socio-economic implications.

Why do Thai people stay single?

The National Economic and Social Development Council recently revealed findings based on a 2023 household socio-economic survey.

These show that 23.9% of Thais are single. In particular, the share of singles in the reproductive age group (15-49 years old) reached 40.5% in 2023, a rise from 35.7% in 2017.

Interestingly, the majority of single people are living in cities. One-third of them (mostly females), hold at the very least a bachelor’s degree.

One of the main factors associated with singlehood according to the survey is social values.

Singles can be classified into three main groups;

(1) Single Income, No Kids (SINK) describes single people with no kids, who enjoy a happy life, spending money on food, travel and expensive communication tools to spoil themselves;

(2) Professional Aunt, No Kids (PANK) are singles aged over 30 who are well educated and well paid but have no kids and they spend money taking care of children in their family;

and (3) Waithood defines singles who choose to wait for love, partially due to not being ready for it. The majority of them are less educated and live on limited income.

Cultural expectations and different expectations in a relationship also play big roles in choosing to remain unattached.

In Asian culture, for example, being married means facing up to high expectations from the family. Women are expected to take care of the children, run the house and go out to work.

A 2021 survey by a leading matchmaking and dating agency in Thailand revealed that over 76% of female respondents said they don’t date a man who makes less money than them and 83% of them reported that they don’t go out with men shorter than them.

Meanwhile, about 59% of male respondents said they don’t date females taller than them, while 60% of them said they don’t take up with divorced women.

Fewer opportunities to meet new people is another reason why some Thai people stay single.

2022 figures show single people have longer working hours. According to the National Statistical Office, single people in Thailand work 43.2 hours per week which is slightly more than the country’s average working week of 42.3 hours.  

Bangkok has the world’s 5th longest working week, which is one of the impediments for single people to find a partner. The more new people you meet, the higher change of finding a life partner.

More importantly, the household survey also indicated that the state-supported projects and activities to help people find their life partners are not consistent and many of them don’t match their wishes.

The Singaporean government pays for its people’s dates to encourage marriage. China’s local government launched a state-sponsored dating app to create matches and hosts events to encourage singles to mingle.

Tokyo’s government is also playing matchmaker with a new dating app in a bid to help singles find love.

Falling in love with singlehood

Being single can be an excellent option for many including Meaw. It allows them to create a life for themselves, pitch their personal growth and goals while promoting emotional well-being.

Meaw said dating is not on her priority list at the moment. The 32-year-old aims to do better professionally and fulfil her dream of having her own house. Working for a medical supply company as a sales manager, she spends most of her time travelling to meet her clients in the city and the downtown areas. After work, she is overwhelmed with her daily routines.

“I’m too busy to date. After long hours of work, I just want to have a wholesome meal, chat with my friends through social media to share my thoughts and feelings with them and take a rest. On weekends, I want to have a wonderful trip visiting new places. That’s good enough for me right now,” she said.

Maew dated for a while but she was not simply interested in being in a serious relationship after finding out that her boyfriend had a very different attitude towards living with parents. She ended the relationship because she doesn’t want emotional drama.

“My ex-boyfriend wants me to move and live in the same house as his family to be closer to them after getting married. But I prefer living as a couple, separately from parents. On top of that, I’m not sure if I want to have a baby and could be a good mother,” she said.

Now, Meaw’s No.1 priority is buying a house.

“I feel free flying solo. I can do the things I want without having to worry about what my ex is doing. I’m buying a house. It’s a milestone that marks success and stability. Home is a comfort zone for me,” she said. 

Combating falling birthrates

Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew said the Thai government will make the nation’s declining birth rates a priority on the national agenda.

However, it may have to resort to desperate measures which help couples find love, which is also considered an urgent agenda.

According to United Nations’ figures, the current birth rate for Thailand in 2024 is 9.399 births per 1,000 people, a 1.4% decline from 2023.

The drop has significant economic and social implications. Experts have said if current trends continue, Thailand’s population will drop by half in 60 years, from 66 million to 33 million.

To tackle the problems, the government is urging investment in developing couple matching tools and working with platform developers to encourage singles to access the tools that bring them together.

Policy makers should formulate a policy that aims to promote work-life balance amongst employees in the government and private sectors, which will help people, including singles, have enhanced quality of life.

This will also add opportunities for them to have time for activities they are interested in and meet people, which increases dating opportunities.

In addition, it’s important for the government to help them improve their skills at work, which can advance their career and boost their income.

More importantly, it should consistently run programmes and activities that promote social involvement to allow singles to mingle. 

By Thai PBS World Feature Desk