The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, which is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia, has a population of 6.51 million people, a per capita gross domestic product of $1,349, and a GDP growth rate of 7%–8%. Like other Asian countries, it has many informal-sector workers (about 85% of the total working population of around 3 million people), who work without social insurance and safety net coverage.
At the same time, Laos is attracting the attention of multinational companies as a new investment destination. Reasons cited include its relatively cheap labour costs compared with neighboring Thailand, its improving infrastructure (distribution corridor hub), and its abundant power supplies provided by hydroelectric power generation.
In light of its experience implementing the SGRA (Supporting Grass-Roots Activities through the International Employers’ and Workers’ Network) project in Thailand, Nepal, and Bangladesh, JILAF dispatched Deputy Secretary General Ryo Saito to the Lao capital of Vientiane from June 16 (Monday) to 20 (Friday) to discuss the possibility of extending the project to Laos with local related persons and gather information about conditions in Laos.
On June 18 (Wednesday) JILAF Deputy Secretary General Saito held discussions with local government, labour, and management representatives gathered together. At the start of the meeting, Mr. xxxxx, director general of the Bureau of Worker Protection of the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU), warmly welcomed the participants from JILAF, the Lao government, and an employers’ organization. He then went on to explain about the informal economy in Laos and the present conditions and problems of informal-sector workers, who account for more than 85% of the working population. JILAF Deputy Secretary General Saito then explained the purpose of the discussions, which was to prepare for a pilot survey of the conditions of informal-sector workers in Laos.
LFTU Director General xxxxx, Commissioner xxxxx of the Bureau of Labour Administration at the Lao Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Director General xxxxx of the Bureau of Labour Activities at the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI), and others then expressed their agreement with the purpose of the SGRA project, which is implemented through trilateral cooperation among government, labour, and management. They also made comments relating to sustainable social and economic development in Laos, such as (1) the need to improve and raise the livelihood of informal-sector workers and manage them; (2) the culture, customs, and national character of the Lao people and the tendency of nongovernmental organizations from major developed countries to offer self-interested support; (3) procedures within the government toward a pilot survey; (4) the need for vocational development for informal-sector workers to conform with the needs of employers; and (5) moves by multinational NGOs from such countries as the United States, Britain, and Belgium to provide informal-sector support. LFTU Director General xxxxx concluded, “Based on the results of the pilot survey, the government, labour, and management all hope that the SGRA project will be implemented in Laos as well. First of all we will thoroughly conduct the survey and then hopefully implement the project from next fiscal year.”
As well as these discussions, JILAF Deputy Secretary General Saito also visited the Vientiane Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Japanese Embassy in Laos, the Lao Office of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and other places to learn about social, economic, and labour conditions in Laos.
|06/17||Tue||Visit to the Vientiane Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry|
|06/18||Wed||Discussions with government, labour, and management representatives toward an SGRA pilot project/survey|
|06/19||Thu||Visit to the Japanese Embassy in Laos|
|06/20||Fri||Visit to the Lao Office of JICA|