Lao Workers Seek Employment Abroad Due to Low Wages and Inflation

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Lao workers prepare to go work in South Korea. (Photo: Lao Youth Radio).

High inflation and an increased cost of living at home are reasons cited for Lao laborers choosing to work abroad, according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare in Laos.

The country is currently facing high inflation which has drastically affected the cost of living for its citizens. Yet most employers still pay low minimum wages, which is prompting more workers to seek better employment opportunities in neighboring nations, particularly Thailand.

According to a report by the Vientiane Times, Mr. Phongxaysack Intharat, the Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, said in a meeting that many factories and companies consider Lao workers unskilled and pay them only minimum wages, even if they have acquired more skills to deserve higher pay.

The government is unable to mediate the issue between employers and their staff concerning agreements on payments and benefits that are already in place. This has further led to Lao workers looking for better work and pay opportunities elsewhere.

During the meeting, the Deputy Minister emphasized the need for an increase in the minimum wage to improve the quality of labor in the country. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare informed that around 70 percent of the Lao workers working in Thailand who had returned to Laos during Covid-19 have already gone back.

The Ministry is working with neighboring countries, particularly Thailand, to ensure that Lao workers are treated fairly and receive the benefits that they are entitled to, given that more and more Lao workers are seeking job opportunities there.

As of now, the current minimum wage in Laos is approximately LAK 1,200,000 (USD 70). The government announced that it would raise the minimum wage to LAK 1,300,000 (USD 76) in May 2023.

Skilled workers in Laos have also pursued work opportunities in countries like South Korea and Japan since last year where they are employed in small and medium enterprises, agriculture, and other fields.