Sex ratio of the economically active population


The map depicts the sex ratio of the economically active population, which is defined as that population who were older than 10 years of age and had been engaged in an economic activity in the 12 months prior to the census. As described in detail in Map G.1 this does not include students, people undertaking household duties, or the retired, the sick or those too old to work. The 2005 National Population and Housing Census indicated that the total work force in the Lao PDR is made up of equal percentages of men and women. However, when looking at Map G.2 it is clear that large areas of the country are mostly coloured pink indicating higher ratios, in terms of economic activity, of women to men. In fact, in two thirds of the villages of the Lao PDR, women constitute the majority of the work force.

It is also very interesting to compare this map with the overall sex ratio of the Lao PDR (Map B.6). This comparison reveals that in many villages where the sex ratio is balanced, women dominate the economically active population and hence have a higher work load than men. This imbalance is even more significant when it is taken into account that household duties are not even counted as an economic activity and that these are largely being assumed by women thereby increasing their work load even more.

We therefore have to ask why the overall sex ratio of the economically active population remains at 50% on average.  As some of the dark green areas suggest, the overall statistical balance is maintained since in about one third of the villages men dominate the work force. These are either densely populated villages in urban areas where the sex ratio is moderately higher or smaller villages in rural areas which offer work opportunities predominantly for men. These can be job opportunities offered by the government (e.g. Xaysomboune area) but also by mining or hydropower construction sites (Nam Theun 2).
In summary we see that this map gives an interesting insight in that in many villages throughout the country the work force is dominated by women. This would have remained hidden by merely observing tabular data on district averages.

Further relevant information on gender-related issues can be found in the sex ratios of different economic activities of the census report (see table below). The table clearly shows that men dominate in skilled activities whereas women are heavily involved in unpaid family labour. This ratio is even higher for poorly educated women.
Finally, we would also like to express a word of caution with regard to the limitations of this type of data: If a woman has a small kiosk, looks after her children, takes care of some family member injured in an UXO accident, and does seasonal work in the fields - when she is asked what was her main activity over the past twelve months, what would she answer? If a man is asked the same question, would his answer be any different? In order to obtain more accurate real data on such simultaneous activities and hence gender differences in workload and income generation, time use surveys are indispensable.

Female (%)
Male (%)
Government employee
Parastatal employee
Private employee
State Enterprise Employee
Own account worker
Unpaid family worker
Table 8: Number of employed and sex ratios.
Source: National Population and Housing Census, 2005.




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