Laos, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, with a population of 7.5 million. The country has a rich and diverse history, marked by revolutions and wars, and is the most bombed country in human history. Laos is also a very ethnically diverse country, with around 160 different ethnic groups. However, human rights violations remain a significant concern in the country.
Laos is one of the countries with the lowest income in South East Asia. Children are unprotected from poverty but also from forced labour, child marriage, trafficking, violence and malnutrition.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Laos since 1995.
Child marriage, when a child is married before the age of 18, is a violation of human rights, and the emotional damage a child suffers from a forced union is profound.
In some places in Laos, children are married early. This is why the government of Laos is informing and preventing child marriages, but the numbers are nonetheless alarming: 33% of women were married before the age of 18. This is the highest percentage in South Asia.
Child labour, which is work in dangerous jobs or sectors, is a big risk to children in Laos. Indeed, 42% of children between 5 and 17 in Laos participate in child labour. Around 24% of those working children have never been to school, while 71% have dropped out.
Poverty is the biggest cause of child labour, and working children are more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, and trafficking. Indeed, trafficking is another major problem in Laos.
Although poverty has decreased over the past decades, 23% of the total population of Laos still lives below the poverty line. Approximatively 80% of this population is employed in the agricultural sector.
Sadly, poverty affects children the most, leaving them undernourished and taking away education opportunities. They are also more easily victims of child labour and child marriage.