Population distribution    

Population density and population distribution are closely related parameters. Density is a quantitative descriptor, while distribution comprises different qualitative parameters, like location (urban or rural), gender, age, or level of education. Population distribution defines the number of people living in different administrative units such as villages, towns, provinces or social environments. Maps B.3 and B.4 show the distribution of the population in terms of age and Maps B.6 and B.7 show the distribution in terms of gender.

This Map B.2 is a numerical representation of the population distribution with one dot equivalent to 100 people living within a particular village area. At first Maps B.2 and B.1 seem to show overall similar patterns with high population concentrations appearing in and around the capital city Vientiane, along the Vientiane-Savannakhet-Pakxe highway and in the provincial towns of Thakhek and Savannakhet, and in Pakxe and Saravane in the south. In the north of the country the population distribution is concentrated in the southern tip of the provinces of Xayaboury and Luangprabang, the provincial capitals and in the neighbourhood of major highways. Figure 1 shows the relationship between the percentages of the population and the corresponding land area inhabited and reveals that 50% of the total population occupy about 80% of the land, whereas the other 50% of the population is squeezed into only 20% of the land area.

Figure 1: Relation between share of population and
share of land area of the Lao PDR

The highest percentages of the population live in Vientiane Capital and in the provinces of Savannakhet and Champasack which have 12%, 15%, and 11% of the total population respectively. Thus over one third of the Lao population are concentrated in these three areas. There are a variety of possible reasons for this, including for example, flat terrain suitable for agriculture, proximity to the Thai border with its trading opportunities, and existence of facilities in the provincial economic zones and the neighbouring provinces. These trade centres and places provide employment and the chance to earn a living. In addition to Vientiane Capital, the provinces of Savannakhet and Champasack with ferries, bridges and international checkpoints to Thailand and Vietnam, are also important economic centres. Roads and rivers certainly provide transportation links, while land suitable for agriculture offers opportunities for earning a living.

In addition to these major centres a considerable percentage of the population is found along the major roads and on the Bolaven Plateau. Smaller percentages are found in those areas which lack facilities or are unsuitable for agriculture such as the high mountainous areas, e.g. the areas close to the border with Vietnam in the north, the central region and the south.

Overall the population is more densely distributed in those areas with many facilities, in the large towns, and alongside roads and the Mekong River and its tributaries. However, because the population is ever increasing, any future development must be carefully planned and actions must be taken to prevent any adverse impact on the economy, society or the environment.



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