Laos: Labour ministry projects high demand for construction workers

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare has unveiled a new study, which delivers a strong message that the construction industry is suffering from a shortage of Lao workers and that a policy intervention is needed to address this deficiency.  

According to the study, which was commissioned by the Skills Development and Employment Department, the demand for construction workers this year was forecast to be greater than the actual supply.

The projection puts the demand for workers at around 4,400 in 2019, while in reality only 1,350 are available, the study highlights.

The study’s findings are a strong indication that the government and relevant stakeholders must take serious action to encourage more people to study subjects and learn skills that are needed by the construction industry so that an adequate supply of Lao workers is available.

Construction has been booming in recent years thanks to the government’s promotion of public and private investment in the construction of roads and railways. The flourishing real estate industry has also caused a high demand for construction workers.

The increasing demand for construction workers has meant the government has had to hire foreign workers to create the necessary workforce to build large-scale infrastructure such as hydropower plants and railways.

But observers say the government should ensure that sufficient numbers of people are trained in the necessary skills while gradually reducing the number of foreign workers. This would create an enabling environment for Lao workers to get jobs in the construction sector.

“It doesn’t make sense for the government to encourage people to study subjects related to construction while allowing foreigners to work in Laos,” a real estate developer said.

Another sector that is suffering from a shortage of labour is agriculture.  The same study shows that about 2,500 workers were needed in this sector this year, while only about 1,600 were available.

Those sectors where the supply of workers exceeds demand include manufacturing, electricity and water management, finance and insurance, and communication and transport, according to the study. The study suggests that people who take courses related to these sectors will find it difficult to get a job.

The government has acknowledged that there is a mismatch in the supply and demand of workers in some areas. This poses a challenge for the government in its attempts to lower the employment rate.

One of the problems is that most young people want to take courses in administration and management, for which the number of available jobs is minimal.

Education officials say it requires cooperation from all the sectors involved to create a new mindset and encourage people to study subjects for which there is high demand in the job market.