Laos' development efforts are being hindered by a severe shortage of skilled workers and general labourers, which is causing financial problems, according to a senior official from the Lao Federation of Trade Unions (LFTU).
However, workers continue to run the risk of losing their job and have no protection in the workplace, because the LFTU is unable to adequately represent them in defending their rights and interests.
This is especially a problem in private businesses run by foreigners, and affects rural migrant workers seeking jobs in towns, people working illegally in other countries, informal workers and others.
These were the main points of the keynote speech given by LFTU vice president Vanhna Douangphachan at the 4th International Sharing and Coordination Meeting held on Friday in Vientiane.
“But the main problem we face is that our workforce is unable to fulfil the needs of industry and do not match the requirements of the job market,” he added.
Friday’s meeting was held to pursue the resolution agreed at the recent 3rd International Sharing and Coordination Meeting.
Participants heard about the current situation concerning the LFTU and discussed future plans and strategies, including a report on the country’s socio-economic development plan and current workforce capability.
The meeting also discussed implementation of the labour law and trade union law, set out a strategic plan for 2015-2017, and shared ideas on trade union activities and other related issues.
There are over 45,000 labour units across the country, 17 provincial branches of the Federation of Trade Unions, the Vientiane FTU, 36 ministry FTU/organisations, 148 district FTUs and 3,797 grassroots unions.
Every sector is working to achieve socio-economic development, political peace based on integrity, sustained national economic growth, GDP of 7.5 per cent, socio-cultural development, the Millennium Development Goals, rural development, and poverty reduction.
However, poverty remains a widespread problem. Thirty of the country’s 148 districts account for 20.27 per cent of impoverished areas, 1,966 villages or 23.09 per cent are classified as living in poverty, and 92,328 households, or 8.11 per cent, are considered to live in poverty.
A further 3,095 villages, or 36.35 per cent, are described as developed.
Laos has a population of close to 7 million people, with the working age in general being 18 to 55 years of age. The bulk of the population – about 4.5 million people – work in agriculture, while a further 7.8 per cent work in industry and 23.4 per cent in the service sector.
Vanhna said the government is working to support skills development and there are vocational schools in every province. In 2013-2014, 37,054 people underwent skills training including 15,579 women, and jobs were found for 56,186 people.
Regarding the labour law, while the government has not yet ratified Convention No 98 concerning the Right to Organise Collective Bargaining (Revised), the LFTU has implemented collective bargaining to protect workers and employers in line with the situation in Laos.