The year 2015 is the deadline for the World Bank’s millennium goal of promoting gender equality and empowering women.
In Laos, it is the 60th anniversary of the Lao Women’s Union. Indochina Research has commissioned a study among 200 women in Vientiane to see how Lao women perceive their place in the workplace.
Fully 52 per cent of women in Vientiane are in paid work, compared with 37 in the country overall – as the economy grows this figure will grow.
The Lao Women’s Union has been an instrumental organisation in the development of the Laos – in driving and protecting women’s rights and promoting gender equality.
It is active across the whole country in educating, training and supporting women to reduce poverty and improve economic stability.
From the 200 working women we spoke to in Vientiane, 95 per cent strongly believed that women should be an equal part of the workforce.
Working women in Vientiane believe in their ability and earning potential in the country with 83 per cent thinking they have the same ability and potential as men, and 82 per cent believing they can bring the same income home as men do.
Entrepreneurial spirit is strong amongst the Lao working women we talked to.
A quarter have dreams to open their own business within the next five years and a further 18 per cent want to expand the businesses they already have.
Some 17 per cent want to pursue more education to help them further themselves and 6 per cent mention a promotion in the future.
One of the women we interviewed said “I am older now and my job makes me run around a lot. If I have my own business my life will be smoother.”
Another said “I will open my own business but keep a job too as I need to earn more money.”
But more than half (55 per cent) think that women face more challenges at work than men do.
We asked a few of the respondents why they thought they faced more challenges. The answers ranged from physical strength to meeting domestic expectations as well as earning money.
One of the women we interviewed said “Because I work hard to earn more money for my family – and then I have to do the housework!”
Another woman felt there are more challenges “because some people still believe women are not equal in terms of ability and potential”.
A major challenge across the globe is the effect that children have on women’s personal and professional lives.
Some 47 per cent of the women we interviewed are mothers and 55 per cent of those working mothers felt that their organisation did not provide sufficient maternity benefits.
Maternity leave is the most important according to mothers, with 61 per cent wanting more time with their child before returning to work.
Whilst many also wanted financial assistance as well (59 per cent), a quarter also asked for flexible working times and a day care facility, both key in getting experienced working mothers back into work.
Working women in Vientiane are resilient, ambitious and increasingly aware of their role in society.
They deem themselves equal to men in terms of their ability and potential for achieving financial independence.
It is safe to say that in the upcoming years, Lao women will realise their potential even more and will continue to become a critical part of the workforce that develops and progresses Laos.
This article has been researched and written by Indochina Research Limited, the leading research agency in Laos.