A new report by the International Organization for Migration says that over 200,000 Lao migrant workers have returned from Thailand since the Covid-19 pandemic began, with fifty percent of those surveyed saying they may not return to Thailand.
Forty of these were identified as victims of labor trafficking, with an average age of between 27 to 28 years old, and a slightly higher number of males than females.
Only 28 percent of respondents reported that they held legal documentation to work in Thailand, with many migrant workers lacking knowledge on social security benefits and other labor rights, according to the report.
More than 50% of migrants of both genders were within the age range of 20 to 29 years, while approximately 46% percent indicated that the main challenge upon returning to their community was finding employment.
The report said that 39% of Lao migrant workers found jobs in Thailand through friends, 31% via family, and 20% by their own efforts.
The survey took place over six provinces, including Khammouane, Savannakhet, Vientiane Capital, Luang Prabang, Salavanh, and Champasack.
More than fifty percent of those surveyed indicated they had no plan to leave Laos for work again, while thirty-six percent were willing to upskill for better opportunities.
Nine percent of households receive remittances from abroad, with this money contributing to sixty percent of their household income, according to the report.
The report also stated that over 200,000 Lao labor migrants are believed to have crossed the border from Thailand since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Since April 2020, the Skills Development and Employment Department (SDED), under the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, has accepted support and assistance from IOM to respond to Covid-19, particularly working on coordination in risk communication and community engagement and surveillance.