Goal 10: Reduced inequalities

Lao PDR's growth in consumption has benefited the richer quintiles more than the poorer segments of the population, and the rural-urban gap remains significant. Inequality has increased, notably within urban areas. Policies and measures to increase the access of the most vulnerable groups to services, livelihoods and resources need to be much more explicit and better targeted. The country also needs to scale up social protection systems rapidly to achieve significant coverage of the poor. 

An analysis by rural and urban areas showed that inequality had decreased in rural areas between 2007 and 2013 (due to a slowdown of growth in incomes of the rural non-poor population). However, this was more than offset by rising inequality in urban areas. Inequality has therefore increased within urban areas, and between rural and urban areas. Although the poor of Lao PDR have become better off in real terms over the past two decades, the rich have benefited more, in both proportionate and absolute terms. A report shows that the increased inequality slowed down the pace of poverty reduction. If inequality had not increased, a greater extent of poverty reduction would have been achieved nationally. 

The rural-urban gap remains significant at 18.6 percentage points. The poverty rate in rural areas is 2.9 times that of the urban areas. From 1992/93 to 2007/08, the decline in rural poverty has been slightly faster than the decline in urban poverty. However, in the five years’ period from 2007/08 to 2012/13, rural poverty rates declined much slower (by 9.8 percent), while urban poverty declined by 42.5 percent. The reversal in trend has been correlated with agricultural produce prices. 

The progress in poverty reduction varies by altitude and location. One-third of the population in upland areas is still below the poverty line, while in lowland areas, about one-fifth of the population is poor (18.8 percent). 

Ethnicity and education also play determinant roles. The Lao-Tai, with the highest levels of education, have the lowest poverty rates, continuing the trend of the previous two decades. In contrast to previous trends, the poverty rate among the Chine-Tibetan group has declined dramatically (from 42.2 percent in 2007/8 to 16.4 percent in 2012/13), and is catching with the Lao-Tai (15.4 percent). Poverty remains high among the Mon-Khmer and Hmong-Lu Mien, at 42.3 percent and 39.8 percent respectively. The Mon-Khmer group has the highest poverty rate, but poverty is declining faster in this group than among the Hmong-Lu Mien. One analysis attributes the different patterns to the lower levels of education among the non Lao-Tai groups. The poverty headcount rate is much higher among households where the household head has no education (41.7 percent) or only some primary education (32.4 percent). Non Lao-Tai groups traditionally live in upland or more remote areas difficult to access, and this factor is important, since location and access affect education and livelihoods. 

Inequalities have to be reduced also between men and women. Achieving gender equality will require actions on three fronts. First, the implementation and monitoring of national gender equality laws, policies and instruments need strengthening and the political role of gender-related institutions upgraded. Second, interventions that empower women and girls should be prioritized in terms of resources and planning. These include, for example, preventing adolescent pregnancies and early marriage, educating girls and promoting small and medium enterprises run by women. Third, multi-sector programmes are needed to combat violence against women. 

Income inequality is on the rise—the richest 10 percent have up to 40 percent of global income whereas the poorest 10 percent earn only between 2 to 7 percent. If we take into account population growth inequality in developing countries, inequality has increased by 11 percent.

Income inequality has increased in nearly everywhere in recent decades, but at different speeds. It’s lowest in Europe and highest in the Middle East.

These widening disparities require sound policies to empower lower income earners, and promote economic inclusion of all regardless of sex, race or ethnicity.

Income inequality requires global solutions. This involves improving the regulation and monitoring of financial markets and institutions, encouraging development assistance and foreign direct investment to regions where the need is greatest. Facilitating the safe migration and mobility of people is also key to bridging the widening divide.


Facts and figures


In 2016, 22 percent of global income was received by the top 1 percent compared with 10 percent of income for the bottom 50 percent.


In 1980, the top one percent had 16 percent of global income. The bottom 50 percent had 8 percent of income.


Economic inequality is largely driven by the unequal ownership of capital. Since 1980, very large transfers of public to private wealth occurred in nearly all countries. The global wealth share of the top 1 percent was 33 percent in 2016.


Under "business as usual", the top 1 percent global wealth will reach 39 percent by 2050.


Women spend, on average, twice as much time on unpaid housework as men.


Women have as much access to financial services as men in just 60 percent of the countries assessed and to land ownership in just 42 percent of the countries assessed.

  • By 2030, progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 per cent of the population at a rate higher than the national average

  • By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status

  • Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard

  • Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality

  • Improve the regulation and monitoring of global financial markets and institutions and strengthen the implementation of such regulations

  • Ensure enhanced representation and voice for developing countries in decision-making in global international economic and financial institutions in order to deliver more effective, credible, accountable and legitimate institutions

  • Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies

  • Implement the principle of special and differential treatment for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, in accordance with World Trade Organization agreements

  • Encourage official development assistance and financial flows, including foreign direct investment, to States where the need is greatest, in particular least developed countries, African countries, small island developing States and landlocked developing countries, in accordance with their national plans and programmes

  • By 2030, reduce to less than 3 per cent the transaction costs of migrant remittances and eliminate remittance corridors with costs higher than 5 per cent
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