Population density


Population density, expressed as the number of people per square kilometre (km²), is calculated by dividing the number of people living in a particular region by its area. The density indicates where people live, how many occupy a given space, and where services like education, health or transportation may be needed in the future. In addition, comparisons with previous surveys show any changes, the movement of people in terms of in- or out-migration as a result of job opportunities, the relation between infrastructure improvements and the response of the population, and the needs or opportunities for improving the standard of living.

A comparison of the results of the Population and Housing Census of 2005 with those of the 1995 Survey revealed that the population density at the national level had increased to 24 people/km² - an overall increase of roughly 1 million people in the 10 year period.

Map B.1 gives the immediate impression that the Lao PDR is a sparsely populated country; this is also shown by the average population density of only 24 people/km². However, the data are spread over a wide range; from high densities of between 80 and over 150 people/km² in urban areas, to low densities of less than 10 to just over 30 people/km² in the east of the southern and central provinces and in almost all of the north. The exceptions are the higher densities found around both the national and the provincial capitals and, as is very distinct, along major highways. Keeping in mind that almost 75% of the Lao PDR is mountainous it is understandable that population densities in the flat terrain are higher than those in the thinly populated mountainous regions. Quite clearly infrastructure development, highways, all-weather roads, markets and utilities are factors allowing for in-migration and improved job opportunities. In these regions great attention must be paid to socio-economic and environmental issues while at the same time development must be promoted in rural and remote areas in order to limit migration to the more developed areas and to avoid economic and social disparities.

An understanding of the very low population densities over large parts of the country is crucial for formulating strategies for options for future development, agricultural intensification plans, land allocation, etc. The table below gives an overview of the population densities in relation to the percentage of the land area of the country:

Population density
Corresponding land area of
the Lao PDR inhabited in 2005 (%)
5 or less
10 or less
20 or less
50 or less
Table 3: Population densities and respective shares of the territory of the Lao PDR




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