Migration to Vientiane capital


In developing countries the capital city is frequently the national  showcase receiving additional government funding for infrastructure development, tourism, and advanced facilities for the international community. The capital of Vientiane has always acted as a magnet attracting people from near and far in search of a better life. However, this attraction does not extend equally over the whole country. This map depicts the origin of migrants to Vientiane Capital in two different ways. Firstly, the shading in six different shades of red shows the percentage of the population of each district which has moved to Vientiane. And secondly, the dots show the absolute number of lifetime migrants to the capital city, where each dot represents 100 people.

Using these two indicators, some interesting general migration patterns can be observed. They can be roughly categorised into three types. First we find a pattern of districts with high migration rates to Vientiane Capital. These districts stretch from Vientiane Province across the central province of Xiengkhuang and up to Huaphanh. It should be noted that the movement to Vientiane from these regions is high both in total numbers and in percentages of the population of the originating provinces. A second region of out-migration can be found southwards along the Mekong River.

Even though the number of green dots and hence the number of people is considerable, this only constitutes a rather small percentage of the district populations. Statistics show that a majority of migrants from these provinces choose Thailand rather than Vientiane as a destination. Finally, the third spatial pattern of districts with pronounced migration to Vientiane can be found along a corridor from Xayabury to Luangprabang and extending up to Phongsaly Province. In many of these districts, with the exception of Luangprabang district itself, the total number of migrants is rather modest but they represent a considerable percentage of the district populations. Almost no migrants to the capital city depart from some regions, namely from those in the very north of the country and along the Annamite chain to the south-eastern parts.

The forces driving this rural-urban migration are probably not different to the reasons discussed in the previous maps of this section, i.e. the search for employment, but also the availability of educational and health services or the desire to follow other family members who have already migrated. A significant role is played by the introduction of mobile phones which allow the sharing of information between family or friends at home or between those already installed in Vientiane Capital.

For a better understanding and interpretation of these spatial patterns, it is important to look at other maps in this atlas. From the maps in section F we can see that ethnicity plays a crucial role. The fact that Vientiane is ethnically still quite homogenous indicates that many minorities have not yet moved to the city.  This implies that rural-urban migration is still a two-step process. First, some people move to district or provincial capitals while others move from there to Vientiane. As we can see in Map C.2, Luangprabang town is really a transit town in terms of migration. It receives many people from surrounding districts but at the same time sends many people to Vientiane.
The continuation of this influx of migrants to Vientiane may limit public services much faster than foreseen. It is therefore desirable to decentralise and establish new development centres around the provincial towns. While migration contributes to the exchange of experience and information it should not contribute to increasing social disparities.



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