Urban Migration and Demographic Trends in Thailand

Thailand's urban population as a percentage of the total population remains low. Urban population in the world surpasses the 50 % mark a few years ago. In Thailand in 2012 (last data), 34.5 % of the population lived in cities or an urban environment. [Data provided by World Bank website]

The number of urban citizens is slowly but persistently increasing though. Each year about 0.3% of the Thai population moves into an urban environment. This is around 200,000 people each year.

Still, at present, two thirds of the Thai population is living in the countryside, and this corresponds to the vast number of people still making a living off the land.

Urban Population of Thailand and the World. 2004-2012

When looking at the different regions of Thailand, we see striking increases of population in Bangkok and its surrounding provinces, and the East of Thailand (towards Chonburi and Rayong). The population of the Northeast decreased by about 2 million people in that time period (about 10%). Interestingly, also the population of the North of Thailand is decreasing, although Chiang Mai does not participate in this trend.

The population of Bangkok and vicinities increase from 11,127,000 to 15,007,000.

Population Trend in Regions of Thailand


Percentage of Increase or Decrease of Population in the different Regions of Thailand

With the year 2002 as a base (=100), percentual increase or decrease in population between 2002 and 2012, in the regions of Thailand. Bangkok includes the surrounding vicinities.

As noted below, the population of the Northern Region is slowly decreasing. This does not apply to the city and province of Chiang Mai, which sas an increase in population by about 10 % from 1,575,000 to about 1,729,000 people.

Population of Chiang Mai and the North of Thailand. Demographic Trends.

The population of Phuket increased substantially by percentage, although still just over half a million people are living there. Songkhla (with Hat Yai) also saw a substantial increase in population (from 1,324,000 to 1,501,000)

Population of Phuket, Songkhla and the South of Thailand. Demographic Trends

The East of Thailand saw a substantial increase in population overall. A lot of industry is located there, as well as the important tourist center of Pattaya. The province of Chonburi increased in population by almost 37 %, from 1,152,000 to 1,573,000. Also the province of Rayong (not depicted below) saw an even more substantial increase of population from 496,624 to 970,024.

Population of Pattaya and the East of Thailand. Demographic Trends.

In conclusion, there is slow and steady move in Thailand from the countryside towards the cities (tourism and industrial centers). Clearly people go to where the money is. If we compare these demographic data, with the GDP numbers of the provinces of Thailand, this trend is quite obvious.

Thais are moving towards the Bangkok metropolis, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Phuket, the East of Thailand. The decrease of population in the Northeast of Thailand, we find, is the most striking demographic change in the last ten years.

All the data above are compiled from files provided by the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) of Thailand. As a matter of facts, we stumbled upon the data, while updating our GDP data for the provinces. We noticed big changes in the GDP numbers for the different provinces, and then realized, that some changes could be explained by the updated demographic data. It was the first time we noticed the population data year by year, for the different provinces and regions of Thailand.

Map delineating the above described regions. You can also find the location of the provinces at our page regarding provincial GDP (GRP) :

Map of Thailand with Regions