Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth

The Lao PDR has made progress but still has some way to go in achieving productive employment and decent work. Labour productivity grew from 1995 to 2010, but this was because high economic growth outstripped the growth in employment. The largely resource-driven and capital-intensive growth meant that GDP per person employed grew, but did not generate a sufficient number of decent employment opportunities.

The agriculture and fishery sectors dominate in Lao PDR, accounting for about 70 percent of employed persons in 2010. This has implications for decent work and poverty reduction, since the agriculture sector has low productivity (4 to 10 times lower than non-agricultural sectors in 2010) with a lack of domestic value-added.

Lao PDR’s employment-to-population ratio (ETPR) has decreased, but remains among the highest in the region (77.7 percent in 2010). One reason for the high ETPR in Lao PDR is poverty – the poor cannot afford not to work. A large percentage of the employed work in semisubsistence agriculture, which is the main driver of the high ETPR. The ETPR is highest in the remote rural areas without road access and lowest in urban areas. 

Over a third of working people do not earn sufficient income to lift themselves out of poverty. Some 36 per cent of employed people belong to the two poorest quintiles of the household population.

The share of vulnerable employment in Lao PDR remains high. Own-account workers and unpaid family workers constitute 84 per cent of those who work. The high level of vulnerable employment is driven by the agriculture and fishery sector, sales workers, and elementary occupations. Within these three sectors, respectively 99, 73 and 73 per cent of workers are in vulnerable employment (self-employed, but not employer, or in unpaid work for the family). The bulk of agricultural work is characterized by low incomes, poor working conditions and deficits in access to both social protection and workplace representation. However, vulnerable employment is not confined to agriculture. Since informal employment is widespread, other jobs often have low pay and poor working conditions. 

The unemployment rate is low, at only 2 per cent in 2015 (2.0 per cent for males, 2.0 per cent for females).

Lao migrants abroad – a large source of income for families in southern Lao PDR – are a vulnerable group. These migrants make up around 8 percent of the working population, mostly in low-paid, labour intensive work in neighbouring Thailand. Remittances sent back home by Lao migrants in 2013 accounted for 1.9 percent – 2.5 percent of the country’s GDP.

The Sustainable Development Goals aim to encourage sustained economic growth by achieving higher levels of productivity and through technological innovation. Promoting policies that encourage entrepreneurship and job creation are key to this, as are effective measures to eradicate forced labour, slavery and human trafficking. With these targets in mind, the goal is to achieve full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030.

Over the past 25 years the number of workers living in extreme poverty has declined dramatically, despite the lasting impact of the 2008 economic crisis and global recession. In developing countries, the middle class now makes up more than 34 percent of total employment – a number that has almost tripled between 1991 and 2015.

However, as the global economy continues to recover we are seeing slower growth, widening inequalities, and not enough jobs to keep up with a growing labour force. According to the International Labour Organization, more than 204 million people were unemployed in 2015.

The SDGs promote sustained economic growth, higher levels of productivity and technological innovation. Encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation are key to this, as are effective measures to eradicate forced labour, slavery and human trafficking. With these targets in mind, the goal is to achieve full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030.

Facts and figures

5%

An estimated 172 million people worldwide were without work in 2018 - an unemployment rate of 5 percent.

1 million

As a result of an expanding labour force, the number of unemployed is projected to increase by 1 million every year and reach 174 million by 2020.

700 million

Some 700 million workers lived in extreme or moderate poverty in 2018, with less than US$3.20 per day.

48%

Women’s participation in the labour force stood at 48 per cent in 2018, compared with 75 percent for men. Around 3 in 5 of the 3.5 billion people in the labour force in 2018 were men.

2 billion

Overall, 2 billion workers were in informal employment in 2016, accounting for 61 per cent of the world’s workforce.

85 million

Many more women than men are underutilized in the labour force—85 million compared to 55 million.

  • Sustain per capita economic growth in accordance with national circumstances and, in particular, at least 7 per cent gross domestic product growth per annum in the least developed countries

  • Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors

  • Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services

  • Improve progressively, through 2030, global resource efficiency in consumption and production and endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, in accordance with the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead

  • By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value

  • By 2020, substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training

  • Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms

  • Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment

  • By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products

  • Strengthen the capacity of domestic financial institutions to encourage and expand access to banking, insurance and financial services for all

  • Increase Aid for Trade support for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, including through the Enhanced Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance to Least Developed Countries

  • By 2020, develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization
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