Marital status of the population    

These four maps deal with the marital status of the age group of 15 years and older and depict the spatial patterns of married, widowed, never married, and divorced population per village. The results of the National Population and Housing Census of 2005 show that in the Lao PDR 38.4% of the entire population aged 15 years and over were married compared to 56.8% of the never-married population. This percentage of the married population is low since it includes very young people aged between15 and 19 years - an age group where only 12% were married. The percentage increases quickly for the higher age groups. Between 75% and 80% of the age group aged from 25 and up to 59 years are married. At the same time a remarkably small percentage of the population was divorced or separated (1.4%) and 3% were widowed. 

Looking at the spatial patterns of these indicators throughout the country, in general, disparities between rural and urban areas and also within rural regions can be seen. These may correlate with particular ethnic groups (see section F), which may have different customs regarding the age of marriage, but also regarding separation and divorce. Furthermore these patterns are also certainly influenced by migration, poverty and health issues, as well as disparities in life expectancy.

Map A shows that the lowest marriage rates are found in Vientiane Capital City and the province of Luangnamtha, particularly along the provincial borders and in the west of the central and southern provinces, especially in settlements located along the river banks. While in urban areas this phenomenon can be explained by changing traditions it is interesting to see how in rural areas it correlates with the imbalance of the sex ratios, for example in Oudomxay and Bokeo but also near Xaysomboune, and may therefore be linked to migration. It should be remembered that in most societies marriage creates the fabric that keeps a nation together.

In rural societies in particular, family bonds that reach beyond the basic unit of husband-wife create the solidarity network needed to cope with daily life or poverty related problems arising from accidents, natural disasters, sickness or death. This cohesion of social units is an essential indicator of the strength of groups and village communities and is therefore important for family-related planning and policy decisions.
Map B shows that the highest percentages of over 10% widowed population are found in the high mountainous areas of the northern parts of the country as well as in the southern provinces of Saravane, Sekong and Attapeu. The rates are extremely low in Vientiane Capital City and Xayaboury province.  We can assume a close relation between the health status of the adult population and the overall living conditions, as well as the access to health services, which are often sought across the border in Thailand. Finally, it is also possible that the war affected regions still show higher rates even after 30 years.

Map C depicts high spatial concentrations of the single population in Xaysomboune, the urban areas and areas along the Mekong River. Part of the reason for this may be the presence of a high percentage of young adults and teenagers, many of whom have migrated from the countryside to work in the bigger towns or specific rural areas (mines, government employees, etc.).
Map D reveals the spatial distribution of divorced people.

There is a clear  pattern of differences between urban and rural areas but also within rural areas. The latter may relate to ethnic groups where the ending of a marriage is handled in different ways. In tribal areas marriages are often solemnised by a declaration in front of the village elder and are dissolved in the same informal manner by an oral declaration. The care of children falls to grandparents and other family members.



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