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Open Access Research article

Labor force participation in later life: Evidence from a cross-sectional study in Thailand

Ramesh Adhikari12*, Kusol Soonthorndhada2 and Fariha Haseen23

Author Affiliations

1 Geography and Population Department, Mahendra Ratna Campus, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal

2 Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University, Salaya, Phutthamonthon, Nakhon Pathom 73170, Thailand

3 Health System and Infectious Diseases Division, ICDDR, B, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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BMC Geriatrics 2011, 11:15  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-11-15

Published: 8 April 2011

Abstract

Background

The labor force participation rate is an important indicator of the state of the labor market and a major input into the economy's potential for creating goods and services. The objectives of this paper are to examine the prevalence of labor force participation among older people in Thailand and to investigate the factors affecting this participation.

Methods

The data for this study were drawn from the '2007 Survey of Older Persons' in Thailand. Bivariate analysis was used to identify the factors associated with labor force participation. The variables were further examined using multivariate analysis in order to identify the significant predictors of the likelihood of older people participating in the labor force, after controlling for other variables.

Results

Overall, 30,427 elderly people aged 60 or above were interviewed. More than a third (35%) of all respondents had participated in the labor force during the seven days preceding the survey. Respondents who were female (OR = 0.56), those who were older (OR = 0.47 for 70-79 and 0.21 for 80+ years), those who were widowed/divorced (OR = 0.85), those who were living with their children (OR = 0.69), those whose family income was relatively low, and those who worked in government sectors (OR = 0.33) were less likely to participate in the labor force than were their counterparts. On the other hand, those who lived in urban areas (OR = 1.2), those who had a low level of education (OR, secondary level 1.8, primary 2.4, and no schooling 2.5), those who were the head of the household (OR = 1.9), and those who were in debt (OR = 2.3) were more likely be involved in the labor force than their comparison groups. Furthermore, respondents who experienced greater difficulty in daily living, those who suffered from more chronic diseases, and those who assessed their health as poor were less likely to participate in the labor force than their counterparts.

Conclusion

Labor force participation in their advanced years is not uncommon among the Thai elderly. The results suggest that improving the health status of the elderly is necessary in order to encourage their employment. By doing so, the country can fulfill the labor shortage and further improve the economic condition of the nation. The results of this study also suggest that for policies encouraging employment among older persons to succeed, special focus on the rural elderly is necessary.