Laotian Women in the Workforce

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By: Indochina Research Ltd

In part three of this three part series, ASEAN Briefing continues to take a closer look at women in the workplace regionally. This article takes a closer look at Laotian women, in partnership with Indochina Research Ltd, and their quarterly I-TRAK Report series.

As economies advance, they seek to improve not only their citizens’ welfare, but also to ensure equal opportunities for all of them. Gender parity is a topic that has great significance in 2015 given that it marks the deadline for the UN Millennium Development Guidelines, with one of its goals being to Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women. Earlier this year the Asian Development Bank also released its Asian Development Outlook 2015 titled Empowering Women Energizing Asia.

The importance of this topic cannot be ignored in Southeast Asia, one of the fastest growing, most promising regions in the world. The I-TRAK quarterly report released by Indochina Research Ltd. measures attitudes by respondents towards different topics affecting citizens in Laos, Vietnam or Cambodia. For the I-TRAK Q3 report, Indochina Research interviewed 200 women in the capital Vientiane about their role in the workplace and how they perceive women’s role in the economy. The amount of respondents owning a business (35%), working a private employee (31%), and holding a government job (34%) was almost the same.

Working in the Capital 

2015 marks the 60th anniversary of the Lao Women’s Union, an organization active nationwide that seeks to train and support women to reduce poverty and improve economic stability. While both the UN and ADB Reports note that progress has been made over the past years, there is still a lot of room for improvement. According to the I-TRAK Q3 Report only 52% of Lao women have a paid job in the capital Vientiane, compared to 37% in the rest of the country.

Lao women in the capital are confident in their abilities with 95% of the respondents saying they strongly believe women should play an equal part of the economy. The remaining 5% of respondents believed that women should only work when needed. Meanwhile, a similar amount of respondents believe women have the abilities as men (83%) and that they should earn the same income (82%). 

Related-Reading-Icon-Asean Link RELATED: Women in the Workplace in ASEAN – Part One
Challenges in the Workplace

According to Indochina Research’s I-TRAK report, 55% of respondents think women face more challenges in the workforce than men. Some of the obstacles mentioned by respondents included domestic expectations to manage work life and housework, social attitudes towards women in the workplace and physical strength issues in some more demanding jobs.

Out of the 200 women polled 47% of them were mothers, many of whom saw childbearing as affecting their work life and vice versa. In fact, 55% of the working mothers felt that their companies did not provide enough maternity benefits.  The biggest issues for working mothers were maternity leave and allowances, 61% of respondents would like to have longer maternity leaves and 59% would like bigger medical allowances. Mothers with older kids would like to have more flexible working times (26%) and daycare facilities at their workplace (26%).

Social attitudes remain a factor affecting women equality, even if progress is being made. For example, the UN MDG report mentions that while the country is on track to achieve gender parity among girls and boys by the end of 2015, that changes as women become older. For example, with tertiary education the ratio falls to 77 girls per 100 boys.

The decrease in gender parity as women get older can be attributed to social attitudes and could explain the difference in hiring practices both in the capital, but especially in the countryside. In fact, currently the Lao PDR has no laws in place to protect against gender discrimination in hiring. However, there are laws in place to make sure women are able to have the same jobs and same salary as men.  

Entrepreneurial Spirit and Climbing up the Ladder

Despite all of these obstacles Lao women have an entrepreneurial spirit and work hard to succeed. According to the I-TRAK report 25% of the women polled would like to open their own business within the next 5 years, and an additional 18% would like to expand their existing business. Additional ways in which Lao women expect to find more success in the future is by pursuing higher education (17%) and getting a promotion (6%).

Related-Reading-Icon-Asean Link RELATED: Women in the Workplace in ASEAN – Part Two

Based on data from the UN and ADB report Lao women are slowly achieving these dreams. The UN reports that the Lao PDR has managed to close 70% of the gender gap index and by 2012 25% of the members of parliament were women, the highest number in the region. Further, despite the social stigma about women in the workplace experienced by some respondents, Lao women are playing a greater role in business management as the government creates more opportunities. In fact, according to the ADB Outlook 2015 report Laos has a mean average of women owning shares in the boardroom that is on par with the US and Germany.  

Outlook for Lao Women

Lao women are hardworking and determined to have a bigger role in the economy and will succeed when given the chance. The best way to summarize the poll responses provided to Indochina Research and the outlook for Lao women can be taken directly from the closing paragraph of the I-TRAK report:

“Working women in Vientiane are resilient, ambitious and increasingly aware or their role in society. They deem themselves equal to men in terms of their ability and their potential for achieving financial independence. It is safe to say that in the upcoming years, Lao women will realize their potential even more and will continue to become a critical part of the workforce that develops and progresses Laos.”


Indochina research_logo_01-01Indochina Research Ltd. is a leading provider of market research services in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The company has over two decades of experience providing tailored market research and survey services throughout Indochina. The I-TRAK series is a quarterly report compiled by Indochina Research based on primary data collection, highlighting key trends in the region.


Asia Briefing Ltd. is a subsidiary of Dezan Shira & Associates. Dezan Shira is a specialist foreign direct investment practice, providing corporate establishment, business advisory, tax advisory and compliance, accounting, payroll, due diligence and financial review services to multinationals investing in China, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Singapore and the rest of ASEAN. For further information, please email or visit

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