While the construction of garment factories in Laos has gradually increased in recent years the industry says it still faces a shortage of workers to help fuel continued growth.
The Lao garment industry needs more than 10,000 tailors each year to supply local factories, but there remains a lack of skilled workers in the country.
Meanwhile, new garment factories are also on the drawing boards to exploit growing exports to European Union (EU) nations but investors are still concerned about the short supply of local tailors.
Vice President of Association of the Lao Garment Industry, Dr Xaybandith Rasphone explained that at present, there were 98 garment factories in the country mainly in and around Vientiane with 12 of these solely owned by Lao businesspeople.
Laos experienced a boom in garment factory construction from 1990 to 2005 as the country began exporting to the EU but more recently construction of new manufacturing plants has eased somewhat.
The garment factories have mainly relied on recruiting rural people moving to Vientiane but the industry is facing stiff competition for their labour from many other sectors of the economy.
Furthermore, many Lao people living close to the border with Thailand are travelling to work there believing the opportunities and pay are better.
Nevertheless, Dr Xaybandith believed the garment industry would continue to grow as Laos became a part of the Asean Economic Community at the end of this year which would increase the inflow of investors.
Laos is also attracting investors to the garment industry as it receives special trading rights as a developing country on exports to European countries which are exempt from taxes.
However, the growth of new factories will be challenged if Laos can’t solve the tailor shortage.
Dr Xaybandith was looking to the government to issue policies to attract Lao workers to back to the country while the association is cooperating with international organisations to encourage Lao people’s interest in the garment industry.
The association is also working with the relevant authorities in each province to promote the benefits of working in factories to local people.
He also agreed with the government’s policy that is pushing the establishment of special economic zones in provinces bordering neighbouring countries, which aimed to attract Lao people to return to work at home.