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Rampant Inflation at Home Driving Lao Workers Across the Border

Source: Vientiane Times
The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare is attempting to continue cooperating in the labour sector in the neighboring country including in Thailand aiming to protect the rights and benefits of Lao workers in these countries.

Lao workers are flood crossing the border to find jobs in Thailand, with more and more people leaving their hometowns in search of better paid work in Thailand.

More than 50 percent of people who returned to Laos from Thailand during the COVID-19 pandemic returned in January, and it is thought that number may now have reached 70 percent and that about 200,000 people have returned.

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The ministry expects this number to rise higher to 500,000 people, most of whom are skilled and can earn more money in Thailand, where the minimum wage is higher than in Laos.

The wages paid in Laos fall far short of meeting the cost of living, as wage increases in recent years have in no way kept up with spiralling prices. With more and families unable to afford to pay household bills and school fees, numerous skilled workers are continuing to seek jobs in neighbouring countries.

One of the problems is that even if workers have acquired skills, they are still paid the minimum wage at the same rate as unskilled workers because many factories and companies cling to the idea that all Lao workers are unskilled, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Mr Phongxaysack Intharat recently said.
The minimum wage did not meet workers’ basic needs, he admitted, forcing large numbers to seek better paid work outside of Laos.

The government cannot force business owners to abide by new minimum wage rates and pay their employees more if they have already reached an agreement with their workers on pay and benefits, Mr Phongxaysack said.

He made the comments at a meeting to discuss these issues as well as the need for an increase in the minimum wage in response to improvements in the quality of labour.

Last year, many skilled workers in Laos found jobs in other Asean countries and Japan, in small and medium enterprises, agriculture, and other fields, with jobs arranged through employment agencies. The demand for skilled labour in Laos and internationally continues to grow.

Lao workers are currently employed in Thailand, South Korea and Japan, and other countries., according to the ministry’s Department of Labour Skill Development.

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