Living conditions


Shelter, next to food, is one of the basic requirements of mankind. The house in which a family raises its children remains the centre to which family members return for ceremonies and traditional holidays. Moreover it serves as a refuge in difficult situations like illness or unemployment. Access to simple housing for all people of a country is a social and cultural challenge to be met by responsible government institutions.

The government’s intentions of providing humane, suitable accommodation were reflected in the 2005 National Population and Housing Census. It assessed factors affecting the quality of living conditions including the building materials used, the water and energy supply and sanitation.

When considering living conditions together with population density and district accessibility, two salient features can be highlighted.  First, throughout the Lao PDR the most popular and easily available building materials are thatch for roofing, woven bamboo for the walls and wood for the floors. These are frequently used and as such are deeply engrained in the traditions and culture of rural house building. Poor people can afford to build such a traditional house while more affluent people frequently construct a similar type of house differing only in the use of more expensive wood and the purchase of more expensive furnishings made from processed materials and the purchase of appliances. Secondly, although corrugated roof sheeting is often chosen, because of its longevity the use of natural materials is not only cheaper but creates a living atmosphere more compatible with the climate with excessive rain during the wet season and extremes of heat and dust during the dry season.

The statistics assessed in the Population and Housing Census and the spatial distribution provided a comprehensive picture of the types and sizes of houses people live in. In general, the use of natural materials prevails in house construction not only because of the lower costs but also mainly because of their suitability for a tropical, monsoon influenced environment. Data analysis indicates opportunities for improvement, e.g. a significant investment should be made in clean water supplies and sanitation disposal in order to reduce health risks.