The survey reported improvements in child well-being in many areas such as a rise in exclusive breastfeeding, declining adolescent birth rates and a decrease in violent discipline used against children in their homes. However, it also revealed worrying trends in early childhood development, education, nutrition and child marriage.
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 decreased from 75 per cent in 2015 to 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.
However, the results also revealed concerning 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. 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.
Another concern was an increase in time young children spent playing on electronic devices during the COVID-19 pandemic. 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.
“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 jeopardized 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."
To gain further insights into Thailand's 2022 MICS findings, watch the video below. Additionally, the datasets and report are readily available here.