Based on UN Population forecasts ANZ expects Thailand will be classified as a post-dividend economy by 2020. By then, the median age will be 40.5 years.
The speed of ageing in Thailand is remarkable given the country’s population will likely breeze through the late-dividend stage over a mere four-year period.
Vietnam entered the late-dividend stage in 2014 when the median age was 30.0 years. With its population ageing at a moderate pace, Vietnam will likely have a window of more than 20 years before entering the post-dividend stage.
Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar have some of the youngest populations in the ASEAN. Still at the early-dividend stage, these countries will see their working age populations grow in the coming decades.
While the period of transition to ageing varies across the Greater Mekong the speed of ageing is also notable. Compared to Europe and the US, where the transition occurred over 26 and 50 years respectively, the transition for most of the Greater Mekong is shorter. The transition will take Thailand nine years, while Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia will have less than two decades.
This speed implies the Mekong will have less time to prepare for an ageing population and the related fiscal requirements. Also, the region will have less time for their incomes to play catch-up with the developed markets. Specifically, Greater Mekong economies will likely be facing the demographic tax at lower levels of economic development.
Narrowing the gender gap in economic participation may provide a potential source of economic growth dividend in the Mekong, mitigating the risks surrounding the ageing transition.
The Global Gender Gap Index in 2016 estimates the gap in economic participation is now at 58.6 per cent. A score of 100 per cent is defined as having closed the gender gap.
In Greater Mekong there is room for narrowing the gap in economic participation. In terms of labour force participation rate, Laos is the only country that has fully closed the gender gap. In fact, the female labour force participation rate is higher than males at a ratio of 81:78.
On the other end of the spectrum is Thailand, which has 70 per cent of females participating in the labour force compared to 80 per cent for males.