Laos needs 70,000 more foreign workers

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Laos workersLaos needs to bring in 70,000 more foreign workers as the country grapples with a shortage of skilled labour, according to Labor Minister Onechanh Thammavong.

Around 20,000 foreign workers have already been recruited, the minister said. Without a sufficiently trained domestic workforce, currently 90,000 foreign workers are required to meet the demands of businesses operating in the country.

Workers in Laos need more training to equip them with the skills needed to keep pace with competition from its Southeast Asian neighbours eying the formation of a single market in two years, Onechanh said.

Impoverished Laos has in recent years welcomed a flood of investments from neighboring China, Thailand, and Vietnam that have helped its economy reach a growth rate of 8 per cent per year. But critics say the foreign investments have not created as many jobs and opportunities for Laotians as they are supposed to, with companies bringing in thousands of workers from their home countries to help build development projects such as hydropower dams and mines.

According to the country’s labour laws, any company operating in Laos may employ unskilled foreign labourers to fill up to 10 per cent of its workforce. Another 20 per cent may be foreign technical specialists, but at least 70 per cent of its total workforce must be local hires. But companies may receive special permission to hire more foreigners, and many of them do, while others bring in more workers illegally, reports say.

Foreign investors say they prefer to bring their own workers to Laos because the locals they hire can be undisciplined or unreliable, with many failing to show up for work when the rice-planting season begins as they tend to their own fields instead.

Others say poor government skills training programmes are at fault for not allowing more Laotians to benefit from the new opportunities, and the local business community and the International Labour Organisation of the UN have warned that a skills shortage is holding back further growth in emerging sectors.

As part of efforts to boost its labour force skills, the Lao government in January introduced a new certification system for national technical vocation education and training. But critics say programmes aimed at honing skills of local workers so far have not been wide-ranging enough or targeted to the right fields, producing too few people in the needed areas.

Some businesses struggle to source even low-paying jobs in rubber plantation projects and the construction industry, the Vientiane Times reported last week. On the other hand, sectors like business administration, banking and finance have a surplus of local skilled labour, it said.

Last month a senior adviser to the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry told a business forum in Vientiane that the country was short of more than 31,000 workers in the garment, processing, tourism, steel, furniture, and construction industries and in some major companies.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Laos needs to bring in 70,000 more foreign workers as the country grapples with a shortage of skilled labour, according to Labor Minister Onechanh Thammavong.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Laos workersLaos needs to bring in 70,000 more foreign workers as the country grapples with a shortage of skilled labour, according to Labor Minister Onechanh Thammavong.

Around 20,000 foreign workers have already been recruited, the minister said. Without a sufficiently trained domestic workforce, currently 90,000 foreign workers are required to meet the demands of businesses operating in the country.

Workers in Laos need more training to equip them with the skills needed to keep pace with competition from its Southeast Asian neighbours eying the formation of a single market in two years, Onechanh said.

Impoverished Laos has in recent years welcomed a flood of investments from neighboring China, Thailand, and Vietnam that have helped its economy reach a growth rate of 8 per cent per year. But critics say the foreign investments have not created as many jobs and opportunities for Laotians as they are supposed to, with companies bringing in thousands of workers from their home countries to help build development projects such as hydropower dams and mines.

According to the country’s labour laws, any company operating in Laos may employ unskilled foreign labourers to fill up to 10 per cent of its workforce. Another 20 per cent may be foreign technical specialists, but at least 70 per cent of its total workforce must be local hires. But companies may receive special permission to hire more foreigners, and many of them do, while others bring in more workers illegally, reports say.

Foreign investors say they prefer to bring their own workers to Laos because the locals they hire can be undisciplined or unreliable, with many failing to show up for work when the rice-planting season begins as they tend to their own fields instead.

Others say poor government skills training programmes are at fault for not allowing more Laotians to benefit from the new opportunities, and the local business community and the International Labour Organisation of the UN have warned that a skills shortage is holding back further growth in emerging sectors.

As part of efforts to boost its labour force skills, the Lao government in January introduced a new certification system for national technical vocation education and training. But critics say programmes aimed at honing skills of local workers so far have not been wide-ranging enough or targeted to the right fields, producing too few people in the needed areas.

Some businesses struggle to source even low-paying jobs in rubber plantation projects and the construction industry, the Vientiane Times reported last week. On the other hand, sectors like business administration, banking and finance have a surplus of local skilled labour, it said.

Last month a senior adviser to the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry told a business forum in Vientiane that the country was short of more than 31,000 workers in the garment, processing, tourism, steel, furniture, and construction industries and in some major companies.

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