Demographic changes present unique opportunity for Lao PDR

Sep 16, 2016

Long-term planning now can bring unprecedented growth and tackle poverty. 

Demographic change in Asia and the Pacific is happening at a rate the world has never seen. An explosion in the working age population and a fall in birth rates that took a century in Europe are happening in this region in just 30 years. Population dynamics have a big impact on development in Lao PDR, since fertility rates are dropping and the working-age population is growing.

If Lao PDR does not start planning for this demographic change, it will miss out on a unique opportunity to boost growth and investments for the future – was the statement of a Policy Symposium, jointly organised by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Lao PDR in Vientiane this week.

UNDP’s latest Regional Human Development Report, entitled “Shaping the Future: How Changing Demographics Can Power Human Development”, notes that Asia-Pacific countries now have more working-aged people and fewer dependents than at any point in history, providing a springboard for growth. In Lao PDR, 61 percent of people are of working age and the number of dependents is dropping rapidly.

“Among ASEAN countries, Lao PDR has youngest population profile. The next 35 years is a period of demographic opportunity for Lao PDR. When a greater share of people are available to work, save and pay taxes, there is opportunity to accelerate sustainable development”, said Thangavel Palanivel, the Lead Author of the report, who introduced the findings to an audience of representatives from government, academia, development partners and civil society. 

The report calls for immediate responses and outlines “9 Actions for Sustainable Development”. These are concrete policies tailored to the demographic profile of individual countries.

Lao PDR is at the beginning stage of the transition, with 57% of its population currently under 25 years of age. To properly prepare them for the labour market, there is a need to invest in education and healthcare, smooth the transition from school to work and encourage youth participation in public life.

“The share of Lao PDR’s working age population is expected to reach a peak of 69% by 2050. After that, ageing sets in, and the demographic window of opportunity closes”, said UNFPA Representative Frederika Meijer. “We need to make the right investments in young people now, especially for girls, so that we create an optimal workforce for the future and a competitive economy in the ASEAN Economic Community”.  

Lao PDR can however benefit from regional expertise. The region’s diversity provides room for south-south cooperation. Governments need to share experiences on long-term fiscal planning. Cooperation can also encourage safe migration from younger to older countries within the region.

“This favourable demography presents opportunities for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, but it also brings new challenges”, said Ms. Kaarina Immonen, UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator. “The process of powering sustainable development through this demographic change is not automatic. Rather, it needs a long-term vision, strategic policies and good governance.”

For more information, please contact:

Ildiko Hamos-Sohlo, Communications Specialist, Head of Public Information Unit, UNDP Lao PDR. Email: ildiko.hamos@undp.org, Tel: 021 267 778, Mobile: 020 7717 7913