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The global shock triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic has had a direct impact on Lao PDR’s economy in 2020. Lao PDR is expected to see a growth contraction, with an expected GDP growth rate between -1 per cent and -1.8 per cent.1 The sectors most at risk include tourism and hospitality services, manufacturing (garment sector), arts and entertainment and transportation, with indirect effects of the lockdown measures on agriculture and fisheries. Within and across industries, small and medium enterprises, the self-employed, and daily wage earners are being hit the hardest.

Households associated with these sectors are at a high risk of losing their livelihoods or suffering catastrophic economic losses in the short-term; in the long-term there will be impacts on poverty and vulnerability.

Women in Lao PDR are more likely to work in high-risk sectors due to COVID-19 (e.g., the entertainment sector, garment industries, tourism, and related industries) and more likely to engage as daily wage, migrant, or informal workers. On average, women in Lao PDR already earn 20 per cent less in hourly wages than men, in part due to lower rates of secondary school completion and high adolescent fertility rates.3 These factors put working women and those relying on them at high risk of poverty and deprivation.

Job and income losses are most prevalent in the short to medium term for those in the tourism and manufacturing sectors due to movement restrictions and the global lockdown. For migrant workers, the loss of income may be more prolonged, and the cost of job searches higher once countries open borders.