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 Socio-Demographic Indicators  Year  Value
 Human Development Index  2005  0.601a
 Human Development Index, Rank  2005  130a
 Gender-related Development Index  2005  0.593a
 Gender-related Development Index, Rank  2005  114a
 Population Mid-year (In millions)  2008  5.9b
 Rate of Natural Increase (%)  2008  2.4b
 Life Expectancy (Male/Female)  2008  59/63b
Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008)

Economic Indicators  Year  Value
GDP Growth Rate (%) 2006  7.3c
GDP Per Capita (PPP US$) 2005  2,039a
GNI PPP Per Capita (US$) 2007  1,940b
Unemployment Rate ---  ---
Sources: Sources: aUNDP (2007); bPopulation Reference Bureau (2008); cADB (2007)


Despite its high economic growth, Laos remains a country with primitive infrastructure. A series of reforms designed to decentralize the economy and encourage private enterprise beginning 1986 has had a positive effect on the overall economy.[1] Growth averaged at 6 percent in 1988-2006 except during the drop caused by the Asian financial crisis (Indexmundi, n.d.). Laos was badly hit by the crisis as it heavily relies on Thailand for imports and exports, but the economy has recovered since 1999 with an average of five percent per year. Subsistence agriculture dominates the economy, with more than three quarters of the population engaged in rice farming. Tourism emerged as one of the country’s top foreign income earners in spite of its comparatively late start in the mid-1990s.[2] Laos is a landlocked country, bordered by China, Burma, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

The following are among the landmark events that have had bearing on Laos’ migration experience:
  • The Implementation of the MoU on Employment Cooperation with Thailand (2003)
  • Open registration for migrant workers and their dependents (July 2004)
Vietnamese workers began migrating to Laos in the mid-1990s as the Lao government opened doors to foreign investors. The Vietnamese workers primarily work in the construction industry although their numbers are relatively small.[3]
The participation of Laos into labor migration is relatively small and mostly directed toward Thailand. The Lao-Thai MoU on Employment Cooperation is pivotal for the kingdom’s young population for about a hundred thousand Laotians join the workforce every year. The July 2004 open registration for migrant workers and their dependents shows that there were 181,614 Laotians in Thailand, 45 percent were men and 55 percent women. There are no reliable statistics of other irregular Laotians in Thailand, but estimates suggest that some 80,000 may be living and working in Thailand (IOM, 2004).
Many ethnic Hmong fought alongside the US army when the Vietnam War spilled into its neighboring Laos. After the war ended in 1975, the Hmong became targets of retaliation and persecution. Over 300,000 Laotians, mostly Hmong, fled the country to Thailand and many were later resettled in the US, Australia, France and Canada. Some 15,000 were relocated to the US in May 2005 (The Associated Press, 2007). The US congress passed a law easing the citizenship requirements for the Hmong in 2000 in recognition of their Vietnam-era efforts. Still, many are ineligible for asylum or green cards due to the anti-terrorism laws (AMN, 31 May 2007). The 8,000 Hmong remain at the Huai Nam Khao camp in Phetchabun, in northeastern Thailand. Additional 150 Hmong refugees are detained at Nong Khai immigration center (AMN, 15 September 2007). They are in danger of being deported to Laos because Thailand and Laos have agreed to repatriate those found to be irregular Laotian migrants (including the Hmong Lao refugees) in Thailand. Thailand sent 160 ethnic Hmong back to Laos on 9 June 2007 (The Nation, 2007).
Asian Development Bank (ADB)
2007   “Southeast Asia: Lao People’s Democratic Republic.” In Asian Development Outlook
2007. Available at,
accessed on 8 December 2008.
Asian Migration News (AMN) Various Years
n.d. “Laos Economy Profile 2008.” Available at
International Organization for Migration (IOM)
2004   “Labour Migration in the Mekong Bathroom.” Available at,
accessed on 19 December 2008.
Ministry of Information and Culture
n.d.a. “Laos Since 1975.” Available at
accessed on 4 February 2008. 
n.d.b. “Economy.” Available at
accessed on 19 December 2008.
n.d.    “Lao People's Democratic Republic (Migration).” Available at
Population Reference Bureau
2008   “2008 World Population Data Sheet.” Available at, accessed on 21 November 2008.
The Nation
2007   “Thailand Sends 160 Hmong Back to Laos.” Available at
accessed on 4 February 2008.
The Associated Press
2007   “Thailand Deports 163 Ethnic Hmong Asylum-Seekers Back to Laos.” Available at
accessed on 4 February 2008.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

2007  “Human Development Report 2007/2008.” Available at, accessed on 9 December 2008.

[2] Ministry of Information and Culture (n.d.b.) see


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