National survey shows progress in breastfeeding, adolescent births and violence, but worrying trends in education and child development

10 July 2023
Staff from the National Statistical Office (NSO) and UNICEF visited a hard-to-reach village in Mae Hong Son Province to collect data on the well-being of children.
UNICEF Thailand/2022/Roisri
Staff from the National Statistical Office (NSO) and UNICEF visited a hard-to-reach village in Mae Hong Son Province to collect data on the well-being of children. During the visit, the staff measured children’s weights and heights and tested their reading and numerical skills as well as interviewing parents and household members about the well-being of children in various areas.

BANGKOK, 10 July 2023 – The largest national survey on the situation of children and women in Thailand, released today by the National Statistical Office (NSO) and UNICEF, shows improved child wellbeing in many areas such as a rise in exclusive breastfeeding, declining adolescent birth rates and less violent discipline used against children at home. However, it also reveals worrying trends in early childhood development, education, nutrition, and child marriage.

The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) is conducted every three years and examines 130 factors affecting the well-being of children and women in Thailand, such as health, development, education and child protection. MICS 2022 collected data from 34,000 households across Thailand between June and October 2022, at the same time as the country began to relax its COVID-19 restriction measures.

“The survey on the situations of children and women conducted in 2022 marks the fifth MICS survey in Thailand,” said Dr. Piyanuch Wutthisorn, the Director General of the National Statistics Office. “This survey highlights the wellbeing of children and women across multiple dimensions, providing valuable insights for policymakers and government agencies. The findings serve as a useful tool for shaping policies and implementing measures aimed at enhancing the quality of life for children in Thailand, as well as monitoring the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

According to the survey, Thailand's adolescent birth rate decreased from 23 per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years in 2019 to 18 in 2022. The prevalence of violent discipline at home has continuously decreased from 75 per cent in 2015 to 58 per cent in 2019 and 54 per cent in 2022. The 2022 survey also found that less men and women accepted domestic violence as "justified" in some circumstances.

Another positive development was that 29 per cent of children were exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives in 2022, compared with just 14 per cent in 2019. In addition, the survey found that more mothers continued to breastfeed their babies longer than six months.

However, the results also reveal negative trends in education and child development compared with the last survey, conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic. According to MICS 2022, 75 per cent of children aged between 3 and 4 attended early childhood education in 2022, compared with 86 per cent in 2019. In addition, levels of pre-primary school learning dropped. 99 per cent of children in 2019 benefited from some form of pre-primary education but this had dropped to 88 per cent in 2022. These troubling trends were reflected in "school readiness" - being adequately prepared socially, emotionally, linguistically, physically and cognitively to begin structured learning - which went down from 99 per cent to 94 per cent.

MICS 2022 also revealed that more children of primary education age stayed out of school in 2022 than in 2019. This figure increased from 1 per cent to 4 per cent. In lower secondary schools, the out-of-school rates increased from 3 per cent to 5 per cent. Yet, the out-of-school rate was highest in upper secondary schools, at 15 per cent in 2022.

Another concern was an increase in time young children spent playing on electronic devices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prolonged use of electronic devices can have negative consequences on child development. Around 62 per cent of children under 5 years now play with electronic devices. 13 per cent of them now spend three hours or more playing on devices each day, compared with 8 per cent in 2019.

As more children have access to and spend more time playing with electronic devices, fewer children read books at home, the survey found. About 6 in 10 children have less than 3 children’s books at home. At the same time, fewer parents and household members engaged with their children to promote their learning and development. In 2022, only 31 per cent of fathers spent time with their children in activities that stimulated learning at home, compared with 34 per cent in 2019.

Children’s literacy and numeracy skills also deteriorated during the pandemic. In 2022, less than half (47 per cent) of Grade 2 and 3 children had basic reading skills, compared with 52 per cent in 2019. Just 40 per cent of children had basic numeracy skills in 2022, compared with 47 per cent in 2019.

“Although the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic may have passed, its impact continues to threaten children's well-being and development,” said Kyungsun Kim, UNICEF Representative for Thailand. “The MICS 2022 data confirms the devastating and lingering impact of the pandemic, especially on education. It has jeopardised children’s development and pushed many of them out of school.  It is essential that Thailand invests in quality education, health and social protection systems to close the gap and ensure children can live up to their full potential and help the country achieve a prosperous and sustainable future for all."

 

Other key findings in MICS 2022 include:

  • Child nutrition remains a major concern as poor nutrition could pose a long-term negative impact on children’s brain development, health and well-being. In 2022, 11 per cent of children under 5 were obese, up from 9 per cent in 2019. Stunting, underweight and wasting rates in 2022 were almost unchanged compared to 2019, at 13 per cent, 7 per cent and 7 per cent respectively.  
  • Early marriages remain an issue in Thailand. In 2022, 1 in 6 young women aged 20-24 (17 per cent) married before the age of 18 and almost 6 per cent of girls married before 15 (up from 3 per cent in 2019).
  • Children not living with parents: Millions of children in Thailand grow up without the care of their parents, mainly due to internal migration. In 2022, almost 1 in 4 children (25 per cent) under the age of 18 - or around 3 million children - were not living with their parents, with most of them (71 per cent) living with their grandparents.
  • Inequality remains a problem, with MICS 2022 highlighting significant disparities among different groups of children depending on the region they live, their household wealth, their mother’s educational level and their ethnicity.  It also provides data on a range of other critical issues such as child health, immunization coverage, parenting, child discipline and access to social transfers.

Download the full report and key findings at https://bit.ly/3JzBHW9

Download photos here

Media contacts

Rudina Vojvoda
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Thailand Country Office
Nattha Keenapan
Communication Officer
UNICEF Thailand Country Office

About MICS

The Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) is an international household survey programme developed by UNICEF in the 1990s. Since then, close to 330 surveys have been implemented in over 115 countries.

In Thailand, MICS 2022 was conducted by the National Statistical Office with support from UNICEF. It collected data of over 130 indicators on the health, development and protection of children and women in over 34,000 households across Thailand from June to October 2022 through face-to-face interviews with families. These data are essential for developing evidence-based policies and programmes, and for monitoring progress toward national goals and SDGs to the global commitments.