Laos to set working age population increase pace in South-East Asia: UNDP

VIENTIANE, April 26 (Xinhua) — Laos is expected to see its working age population increase at the most rapid rate in South-East Asia, according to a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report on the Asia-Pacific released Tuesday.

The working age population in Laos is expected to add 33 percent in the decade and a half from 2015 and and additional 26 percent of the 2030 total in the following two decades to 2050.

The projected rate of increase in Laos exceeds those for neighboring Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam and comes in contrast to contractions of 7 and 21 per cent in the working-age population projected for southern neighbor Thailand over the same periods.

The figures for Laos come as policymakers seek to channel its young and predominantly rural population into more productive and sustainable agricultural practices and develop industry, trade and employment opportunities in urban centers.

The increase will continue to test the country’s ongoing efforts to improve quality of and access to education and health services particularly in rural and remote districts.

The country is seeking to harness its expected demographic dividend to hasten socio-economic development, infrastructure and human resource capacity as it seeks to create conditions necessary for graduation from least developed country (LDC) status by 2020 and towards middle income by 2030.

“Shaping the Future: How Changing Demographics Can Power Human Development” received simultaneous worldwide release Tuesday, revealing and analyzing expected changes in populations and demographics across the Asia-Pacific.

UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Director for Asia and the Pacific Haoliang Xu said with 58 percent of working people on the planet, what happened in the Asia-Pacific would affect those beyond.

He said the time was now for policymakers, societies and economies to be prepared for the changes set to take place.

“If countries in Asia-Pacific do not create optimal employment conditions, the regional economy will begin to slow down by 2050 as the current working-aged population begins to retire,” Xu said.

“The window of opportunity to increase productivity, invest in growth and save for the future is between now and 2050.”

According to the report’s analysis, rapid social and economic developments in the Asia-Pacific including an explosion in the working age population and followed by declines in birth rates that took a century in Europe are being seen in just 30 years.