Laos Makes Strides in Gender Parity, Ranks Fifth in Economic Participation, Opportunity in Global Gap Index 2023

Laos Makes Strides in Gender Parity, Ranks Fifth in Economic Participation, Opportunity in Global Gap Index 2023
Ethnic minority youth pictured participating in an Entrepreneurship Camp in Feung District, Vientiane province. (photo: Aide et Action)

Laos has achieved a new milestone in gender equality, securing the fifth position in the Global Gender Gap Index 2023 for “economic participation and opportunity,” but improvement is still required in other areas, according to the latest report.

The Global Gender Gap Index, a benchmark for gender parity across various dimensions, including economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment, has highlighted Laos’ progress in comparison to other 145 countries. 

With a score of 85.1 percent, Laos has been granted fifth place for its relatively equal access for men and women in economic participation and opportunity, trailing behind Liberia (89.5 percent), Belarus (81.9 percent), and Norway (80 percent). Other countries in the region of Southeast Asia, such as Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, were ranked 23rd, 24th, and 31st, respectively.

While Laos has made significant strides in economic participation and opportunity, the report also sheds light on areas needing improvement. Educational attainment, reflecting a disparity between the two genders, remains a challenge for Laos, with the country ranking at 107th, health and survival at 50th, and political empowerment at 101st. 

The report indicates the need for Laos to intensify efforts to provide education and healthcare access for women, particularly in rural areas where educational opportunities are limited. Concurrently, there is a pressing need to enhance women’s empowerment in the political sphere.

Laos’ commitment to gender equality is evident through efforts such as the country’s progress in implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), according to the UNFPA. The report acknowledges the positive impact of government reforms and policies on advancing women’s rights, including the mainstreaming of CEDAW principles in policy frameworks and targeted laws.

Despite improvements, gender gaps persist in Laos. Women earn only 77 percent of men’s average monthly income, are overrepresented in low-skill occupations, and bear a disproportionate burden of unpaid family and care work. Women’s representation in Parliament and subnational levels also remains low, and violence against women is prevalent.

On the positive side, Laos has made strides in girls’ education at a national level. Meanwhile, in Xieng Khouang province, efforts to improve maternal health and family planning mark a shift towards healthier family dynamics and empowerment in rural communities.

While Laos has made progress in closing the gender gap, there is still work to be done to ensure equal opportunities and rights for women and girls. Efforts to address gender inequality must continue to be a priority, with a focus on promoting women’s economic empowerment, increasing their representation in leadership roles, and combating gender-based violence.