How can the skills of the Lao workforce be improved?

Laos’ membership in the Asean Economic Community brings easier access to trade, services, investment, labour and other aspects of regional connectivity. But it also means that workers from other Asean countries can penetrate Laos’ job market, especially the construction industry, which puts Lao workers at a disadvantage due to their inferior work skills. Vientiane Times sought public opinion on how job skills could be improved.

Ms Lee Keophila, an employee in Khammuan province: I think Lao workers have improved their skills a lot. The quality of some of them now matches international standards so Lao workers can be competitive at regional and international levels. But many workers aren’t aware of what’s required of them and the kinds of skills they should be proficient in. They just do what they’re told and their work is usually accepted. This may be because there is no proper system to help workers which means they lack information about the standards they should be working towards. And more should be done to protect workers’ rights as this would help raise awareness among both employers and employees about the rights and obligations of both parties.

Ms Bounyai Diddavong, a resident of Xaythany district, Vientiane: It’s good that the government is working with development partners to improve the skills of Lao workers. Our workers have improved and now work to higher standards than in the past. In addition, job security and social protection systems have improved. Unfortunately, some Lao workers have poor skills and lack a sense of responsibility in their work. Some employers complain that Lao people expect a high salary but don’t want to work overtime, and like to drink. I think both parties should make improvements so that workers are properly trained and certified to regional standards to make sure they can get and keep jobs. If they don’t do this they will be unemployable in the face of competition and employers will hire people from other countries.    

Mr Phonevilay, a resident of Savannakhet province: The government is trying to attract investment from Lao and overseas companies in order to spur development and create jobs. But from what I observe most of the large foreign companies who carry out development in Laos don’t hire Lao nationals. They say that Lao workers don’t see a job through to completion and that their skill levels are inadequate. Even when jobs are available, the Lao people who are hired are given low positions and don’t really get the chance to learn technical skills on the job. If something isn’t done to improve workers’ skills and capacity then of course they face unemployment because workers from other countries will take up jobs in Laos. To protect workers’ rights, the government should continue to cooperate with development partners to protect workers and improve their job skills. And all employers should strictly follow the regulations concerning employment and the Labour Law.

Ms Noy, a resident of Xayaboury province: I have heard that the government is doing more to help workers by providing training courses that give them a diploma. However, it’s true that some workers have low standards and lack the capacity to do a job efficiently and in a disciplined manner. Before applying for or doing a job, workers should be aware of what’s required of them, the working conditions, and how much they will be paid. Doing this will help to protect them and enable them to negotiate with their employers and get assistance from the authorities if they have a problem. I think there should be more advertising about employment services and self-employment, along with upholding workers’ rights and improving industrial relations. This would all help to build the confidence and capability of workers.

By Lamphone Pasanthong
(Latest Update January 4, 2019)

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