Since the introduction of economic reforms in the mid-1980s, sustained growth and development have lifted thousands of poor women and men out of poverty and changed traditional ways of life in Lao PDR. In this environment of change, gender relations within the family, village and society have also changed. A key challenge for the government has been to successfully manage development and poverty reduction efforts in an inclusive, pro-poor, and gender-responsive manner. Enabling equal access for women and girls to opportunities and resources, particularly for rural and marginalized women, has been part of the main goals to enhance gender equality in Lao PDR. More specifically, illiteracy, poor reproductive and basic health, food insecurity and economic disenfranchisement rank high among the development priorities for women in the country.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, Lao PDR ranks 36 out of 156 countries. The country has one of the smallest “Economic Participation and Opportunity gaps” in the world and has closed its gap in labour force participation and achieved gender parity. Health indicators like maternal and infant mortality ratios have improved. Life expectancy at birth has increased from 59 years in 200 to 68 years in 2018 (UN Lao 2021 Progress Report). Despite this progress, sharp regional, gender, urban-rural and ethnic disparities persist. Limited access to quality and coordinated health services as well as the availability of reproductive health services remains a challenge in the country. Women’s labour force participation occupies the lower rungs of the employment market representing workers in elementary occupations and in the service sector. Moreover, most of the population is not yet drinking safe water and there remains a sharp disparity in the use of basic sanitation and safe hygiene practices associated with income levels.
Last updated September 2022