Laos' Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, Mrs. Onechanh Thammavong, has acknowledged that that the global financial crisis has led to increased unemployment, with initial survey results showing that more than 48,000 Lao workers have been laid off their job. Mrs. Onechanh also admitted that the impact of the current global economic slump will further cause the number of unemployed workers to increase by more than 16,000 in the near future; of which, more than 2,000 will lose their job in Laos while over 14,000 will be laid off in Thailand.
Nevertheless, the Labor and Social Welfare Minister insists that the unemployment problem in Laos will not be grave since previous surveys have found that the manufacturing sector still need to hire more than 60,000 workers in all, with some 14,000 needed in the business sector and the garment industry each, over 5,000 in the forestry sector and 15,000 in the mining sector. In addition, officials say Thai, South Korean, Malaysian and Japanese employers in Laos have all expressed their interest in hiring an additional 25,000 workers.
However, our VOA Bangkok stringer says those surveys were conducted before the current global economic crisis. Therefore, given the present situation, the unemployment issue in Laos will become more serious in the future. A case in point, the Australian mining company operating copper and gold mines in Laos, OZ LXML, formerly Oxiana Resources, recently announced that it will lay off more than one thousand workers at its Sepone mines due to sharp drops in the demand for and the price of copper in world markets.
In addition, the Thai government recently let it be known that it will not register additional foreign workers from Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia this year to reserve jobs for Thai workers, who are expected to be laid off in the millions this year. That measure will undoubtedly have an effect on the ability of Lao workers to seek employment in Thailand, and will eventually increase the unemployment rate in Laos at least to some extent. But it will not affect Lao workers who have already registered with Thai labor authorities and are working there legally.
In a related development, Thai officials say they will speed up their cooperation with Lao officials to verify the nationality of Lao workers in Thailand, in an effort to prevent them from falling victims to international human trafficking and to reduce the number of Lao labor illegally working in Thailand.
Thai Labor Minister Krasit Piromya tells VOA, "Of the estimated 50,000 Lao currently legally working in Thailand, more than 30,000 have been registered. The remaining 10,000 or so will have their nationality verified, and will be properly registered. We will then categorize them systematically, so that they will not fall victims to human trafficking, or abuse by employers, or resort to working in inappropriate jobs."
Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.
(English translation of Songrit's report by Buasawan Simmala/Dara Baccam)