Labour migration

Essential contribution of Lao migrant workers recognized on International Migrants Day

The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and International Labour Organization celebrate the important role of Lao migrant workers in advancing development of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Press release | Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic | 18 January 2024
A returned migrant worker attends tailoring training in Lao People's Democratic Republic. © Village Focus International/ILO
VIENTIANE, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (ILO News) – To commemorate International Migrants Day, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and the International Labour Organization (ILO) jointly organized a celebration on 18 January 2024 at the Lao-Korea Skills Development Institute in Vientiane Capital.

The theme for the event was skills development, acknowledging the major impact that migration can have on enhancing Lao migrants’ vocational skills, as well as the need to support them in obtaining market-relevant skills upon return so that they are able to reintegrate successfully into the labour market. Broadcast on Lao Youth Radio, the celebration brought together migrant workers and key stakeholder organizations to share their experiences on reintegration in Lao PDR.

Madame Anousone Khamsingsavath, Director General of the Department of Employment, said: “This type of targeted outreach event is critically needed to help inform returning migrant workers about the vocational skills training and job matching services that are available in Lao PDR. Particularly for women returnees, we want to provide them with greater opportunities to remain in the labour market.”

The International Migrants Day event was funded through support from the Governments of Australia and Canada, and the European Union. In her opening remarks at the event, Mrs Karla da Silva Leitzke, Governance Attaché Delegation of the European Union to Lao PDR said: “Many Lao migrant workers not only make a major contribution to their households, communities and the country through financial remittances but also gain new vocational skills during their time abroad. It’s important that when they return home, there are job opportunities waiting for them to apply those skills.”

With funding from the ILO, migrant worker resource centres and civil society organizations have been providing extensive support for migrants to upskill and find new jobs upon returning home.

Mr Robin Flint, First Secretary, Australian Embassy in Lao PDR, pointed out in his remarks that, “Recent ILO research has shown that many Lao migrant workers struggle to find employment upon return and some end up having to migrate again. Providing access to information and services for migrants during all stages of the migration process is key to ensuring a successful migration experience."

One example is Ms Vanny Santiphone, a 34-year-old woman from Boungsui Village in Salavan Province. Upon returning to Lao PDR, she decided to participate in a tailoring training provided by Village Focus International, where she stayed for free until she completed the course. While there, she also took part in a training on small business start-up and received information on safe migration.

After finishing the tailoring training, Vanny received an in-kind grant to buy the equipment she needed to open a shop at her home. She is now making traditional Lao skirts and mending clothes for people in her village. Although the earnings from her work are still small, Vanny is working hard to find new customers and expand the services she offers. She plans to continue to practice her tailoring skills until she can make a good living in her home village.

The United Nations adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families on 18 December 1990. Since that time, the 18th of December has been established as an international day to celebrate the major contributions of migrant workers to economies and societies around the world.

Mr Bob Paquin, Chargé d’affaires and Head of Office of the Canadian Embassy, noted that, “While this is a time to reflect on the great benefits that migration brings to Lao PDR, we also need to recommit ourselves to ensuring their rights are fully protected.”

Data from the United Nations indicates that there are currently 1.35 million Lao nationals living abroad, more than half of whom are women. Collectively, they sent home US$225 million in remittances in 2023, representing an estimated 1.6 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Oktavianto Pasaribu, Deputy Director of the ILO Country Office for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao People's Democratic Republic, said: “In the ideal scenario, labour migration can be a “triple win” for migrant households, countries of origin and countries of destination. The ILO is committed to working hand-in-hand with the Government, social partners and civil society organizations to help ensure safe and rewarding migration experiences for all Lao migrant workers.

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The TRIANGLE in ASEAN programme is part of the International Labour Organizations worldwide efforts to increase the benefits and minimize the risks of labour migration for all migrant workers. TRIANGLE delivers technical assistance with the overall goal of maximizing the contribution of labour migration to an equitable, inclusive and stable growth in ASEAN. The programme is funded by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Global Affairs Canada.

The Ship to Shore Rights South East Asia is an initiative of the EU and the UN, implemented by the ILO in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with the overall objective of promoting regular and safe labour migration and decent work for all migrant workers in the fishing and seafood processing sectors. The programme addresses the characteristics of working in the fishing and seafood processing sectors as well as the barriers and risks present during migration, which can lead to unsafe migration, decent work deficits, abuse and forced labour.

For further information please contact:

Mr Vongtavanh Sayavong
National Project Coordinator, TRIANGLE in ASEAN Programme
ILO Country Office for Lao People's Democratic Republic
Email: sayavong@ilo.org

Mr Benjamin Harkins
Technical Officer, Ship to Shore Rights South East Asia Programme
ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Email: harkins@ilo.org