The Government of the Lao PDR and the international development partners are committed to the transformation of the current opportunities for economic development into sustainable development benefiting the whole country.
This intention implies that decisions on development interventions and policies are based on the understanding and knowledge of the on-going development processes and their outcomes in terms of the socio-economic situation.
Such knowledge should allow not only seeing the big picture of the overall trends but also providing a detailed image of the spatial patterns of socio-economic disparities.
This Socio-Economic Atlas presents selected indicators of the human condition of the peoples of the Lao PDR. It contains a comprehensive set of maps showing a wide range of socio-economic aspects of the population of the Lao PDR. For the first time, census data have been mapped with a high degree of spatial disaggregation.
The majority of the maps presented are at the village level. All the maps in this Atlas, with the exception of the poverty maps in Section I and the general maps in Section A, are based on the National Population and Housing Census of 2005 carried out by the Department of Statistics (DOS) of the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI).
This was supported both financially and technically by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and covered more than 5.6 million individuals living in 950,251 households in 10,547 villages.
The questionnaire, which can be found as an annex to the report on the results of the 2005 Census (DOS, 2005), comprised 34 questions covering population and household characteristics, education, economic activities, migration, health and disabilities, housing characteristics, etc.
The poverty indicators are based on estimates generated by combining variables of household characteristics and expenditure data from the 2002/3 Lao Expenditure and Consumption Survey (LECS) III with variables in household characteristics from the 2005 National Population and Housing Census.
This allowed an estimation of the per capita income for the whole population.
Using small-area estimation methods, the estimates were generated in a collaborative effort undertaken by the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
Further information can be found in the corresponding section (Section I) or in a complementary report published in parallel to this Atlas entitled “Poverty and Inequality in the Lao PDR: Spatial patterns and geographic determinants” (Epprecht et al., 2008).
The maps generally show data at the village level. Detailed information on village locations and the delineation of polygons showing village areas can be found in the descriptive text of Map A.7. In general the maps use two ways to represent village data.
On one hand the colouring of village polygons is used to depict statistical information based on average values, percentages of the population with certain characteristics, or the main types of an indicator.
On the other hand dots and markers are used to represent absolute numbers of data such as persons with specific characteristics. By attributing a certain number of persons to one dot, the total number of dots is then evenly distributed across the village polygon.
Since it is the intention of this Atlas to identify geographic patterns based on socioeconomic characteristics rather than to show exact values identifiable in a specific village, the delineations of village polygons are generally not highlighted.
The Atlas is divided into nine main sections. The first, Section A provides an overview of the geographical aspects of the Lao PDR, such as relief, transportation, land and forest cover, administrative divisions, etc. These maps are derived from different sources indicated in the legends of the maps.
The second, Section B provides maps on the general demographic characteristics, while the third, Section C illustrates migration issues.
The fourth, Section D encompasses aspects of literacy and education while the following section, Section E depicts major health characteristics.
The sixth section, Section F shows information on ethnicity and religion before the different indicators on economic activities are presented in Section G. Section H on living conditions shows the last set of maps referring to the 2005 Census. Lastly, Section I presents maps relating to the spatial distribution of poverty in the Lao PDR.
The explanatory texts accompanying the maps were prepared by a number of different authors from different institutions. The aim of these texts is to guide the reader when looking at the maps as well as providing general information on the particular indicator.
Moreover, some of the authors also provide basic interpretations of the maps. These should be thought of as a means of stimulating and encouraging the reader to interpret the spatial patterns on each map.
Moreover, a comparison of the different maps by browsing back and forth through the book in order to detect correlations, supplements, and overlaps of different socio-economic characteristics is strongly recommended.
This Atlas is intended to reach as wide an audience as is possible. It provides interested general readers, students and researchers, policy- and decision-makers with information on the socio-economic characteristics of the Lao population and their spatial distribution.
We have also tried to improve access to the existing information and hence to improve general knowledge of the socio-economic situation through making this atlas generally available by distributing it as widely as possible through governmental and administrative channels, but also to educational institutions, and to interested individuals through public libraries and the internet.
We hope that this Atlas will serve as a basis for stimulating discussions on the current socio-economic characteristics of the country and on any future developments.
In this way we hope to have made an important contribution to linking knowledge and decision-making and hence leading to the sustainable and equitable development of the Lao PDR.