“Great things will happen when you have children,” this post by the Bureau of Reproductive Health says. Photo: Bureau of Reproductive Health / Facebook

BANGKOK — Tinder not working out for you? Let the Bureau of Reproductive Health step in and help you find your match. 

The bureau launched a campaign this week to boost the birth rate by holding a single’s meetup on May 14 – registration is open starting Friday, to both Thais and foreigners. 

The “Marriage for Building Nation” is the latest in the annual series of bold and wacky initiatives conceived by the government to fix the country’s declining fertility. But despite these campaigns, which typically took place around Valentine’s Day, the birth rate continues to fall and it remains unclear how much impact they have on people’s decision to have a baby.

“Whether or not people have children depends on many factors, including self care,” Papawee Thairak, researcher at the Bureau of Reproductive Health said by phone Thursday. “For the people interested in having children, we want them to be prepared.”

The campaign includes a single’s meetup as well as a giveaway of vouchers for prenatal care. The latter is intended for couples who have been together for more than a year and plan to have their first child. 

“We want people who are interested in having children to have access to get medical care. We also want singles to meet as well,” Papawee said. 

An employee for the “Marriage for Building Nation” said by phone Thursday that so many people were applying that the system went under. Applicants are advised to try again on Friday.

Registration for the singles meetup is open to both Thais and foreigners until March 31, although the form is in Thai. Fill in a passport number in lieu of a Citizen ID. 

Sathit Pitutecha, Deputy Minister of Public Health, announced the project at the Public Health Ministry on Wednesday in a press conference titled, “Life Balance Smart Family.” 

“The singles meetup will create many new friends, but whether a couple clicks or not, we will have to see,” said Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, director-general of the Department of Health said. “Some people are single without wanting to be single. Others are single because they’re waiting for their soulmate.” 

Sathit said 2020 saw only 600,000 new births, a record low for the country, with a likelihood of births decreasing even further in 2021. The health ministry set a goal for 700,000 live births for the coming year. 

“We need to have 1.5 births per woman to replace the population, or else in the future there will be a large aging population that will put its strain on the government,” Sathit said. 

Some couples are also facing trouble with conception, an average of 30,000 babies born with birth defects, and maternal mortality. 

In 2020, Thailand saw a maternal mortality rate of 23.1 deaths per 100,000 live births, mostly in rural provinces in the north and south. The World Health Organization states that high income countries have a ratio of 11 per 100,000 in high income countries. 

Sathit cited higher education, trends of more people staying single, people marrying later, and uncertainty over providing for the children for Thais delaying or forgoing having children.