The number of people from the southern provinces crossing the border to find work in neighbouring countries continues to rise despite the growing investment and economic development in Laos.
Most people in the south of the country cannot find work and, even when they do, the jobs are very poorly paid. Many of them live along the Lao-Thai border and crossing it is an attractive option, as they can earn significantly more there working on construction sites or in factories.
The number of people in Saravan province who went to work in Thailand last year increased to about 15,000, while 32,000 people left Champassak province according to local labour and social welfare authorities.
Most of the people who emigrated went to work as individuals not as part of a team, a Champassak provincial Labour and Social Welfare Department official, Mr Onsa Vongsamphan, told Vientiane Times yesterday.
Some people who go across do so to earn more money for their families while some are married to Thais. But there are others who find when they get there that things are not quite what they had been promised.
This issue is still a major obstacle for the provincial authorities to overcome. The lack of measures to keep workers in their native areas means the authorities have to find better options.
“In the next few years, the province will need thousands of workers to tap rubber when hundreds of hectares of rubber here are ready for harvesting,” said Mr Onsa.
Some areas of the province are already beginning to tap but there are sufficient local workers to meet the requirements of the companies that own the plantations.
Mr Onsa is concerned that there will not be enough workers around when the plantations mature and are ready to tap in the next few years.
“The provincial authorities, especially in the labour and social welfare sector, will try to encourage Lao nationals working in Thailand to return and take up jobs here to help with the development of their province and hometown,” he said.
“In line with the government’s Three Builds strategy, we will focus on creating job opportunities for local people by providing work locally so they can earn more money here,” he explained.
Rubber tapping is an important part of the effort to create better incomes for local people and create job opportunities for them.
“Some people who are already tapping rubber in the province are earning a good income – about two to three million kip a month for those with experience,” Mr Onsa said.
“There are many people from Saravan, especially those living in districts bordering Thailand, who choose to live and work there,” said the provincial labour management section Head, Mr Sopha Khayphithoun.
Wet season rice crops are shrinking in some areas partly because of a labour shortage and also because it costs people more to grow and harvest the rice than what they can earn from selling it.
published with the permission of Vientiane Times