Country Gender Assessment: Lao People's Democratic Republic

Institutional Document | December 2012

Lao People's Democratic Republic's (Lao PDR) development progress is impressive. In just over 10 years, poverty has been reduced from 46% in 1993 to 25% in 2010. In tandem with economic growth, the country has also made impressive gains in promoting gender equality. Human development indicators for women and men alike in both education and health are improving.

But at the same time, the Lao PDR continues to face challenges in economic and social integration, with rural residents - and ethnic groups and women within these regions - facing greater constraints to inclusion and access to services than those in urban areas.

While the Lao PDR has greatly improved its performance on household access to water and sanitation and electricity, it is not meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in reproductive health services, maternal mortality, or education. In light of this, the Seventh National Socio-economic Development Plan (NSEDP) has recognized that the effective participation of women, especially poor and ethnic women, is essential for the Lao PDR to achieve its goals of poverty reduction and improved living standards.


This 2012 Lao PDR Country Gender Assessment has been prepared by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, in consultation with the Government of Lao PDR, as inputs to their respective country partnership strategies. The assessment presents gender issues into three main dimensions of gender equality - endowments, economic opportunities and agency - and also analyzes gender issues related to emerging areas of development and growing risks.


The Lao PDR is at a critical juncture to harness the power of its economic growth to improve its human development and to ensure that society can holistically benefit from its natural resources. To achieve these goals, it will be necessary to place gender equality and women's empowerment at the center of national development plans. The report argues that there remains an important role for public policies aimed at reducing the most costly gender disparities that are non-responsive to growth and those that have a significant impact on vulnerable groups.

On the one hand there is a need to focus on reducing gender disparities and vulnerability in remote rural areas that are home to smaller ethnic groups. These groups are at particular risk of being left behind during this period of rapid economic development. On the other hand, the report also highlights a need to focus on increasing women's ability to take full advantage, on equal terms, of the expansion of new economic opportunities in the market, particularly among women in urban, lowland areas.


  • Foreword
  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction: A Country in Rapid Development
  • Endowments: Promoting gender equality in human capital
  • Economic Empowerment: Balancing opportunities and risks
  • Agency: Leveling the playing field for women's participation and voice
  • Emerging Areas and Risks
  • Works Cited
  • References