Laos govt mulls unemployment package amid economic downturn

A worker at a car wash sprays disinfectant inside a car in the Pin Klao area of Bangkok, while alcohol gel is given free of charge to people at the Bang Chak petrol station on Sukhaphiban 1 Road. photos by Arnun Chonmahatrakool and Varuth Hirunyatheb. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

VIENTIANE, May 5, 2020, The Laotian Times. The government is considering measures to be included in an unemployment package to aid those who have found themselves jobless due to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Laotian Times reported.

According to a report in the Vientiane Times, the taskforce for economic affairs was asked to revise measures for the relief of the unemployed at a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Meeting held recently.

The revised measures come after the National Economic Research Institute (NERI) urged the government to accelerate efforts to aid the jobless, saying state intervention is necessary after the lockdown forced many businesses to suspend operations, and furlough or retrench workers.

The institute suggests unemployed workers registered under the social insurance scheme should receive benefits first, as they have already made contributions to state funds.

Following this, the institute recommends the government allocate funds for the relief of workers who are not registered under the social insurance scheme, including over 100,000 Lao laborers who have returned from Thailand and other neighboring countries due to the pandemic.

The government has been advised to recommend laborers begin working in agricultural activities to support themselves and their families.

The Prime Minister stated in early March that people should begin growing crops and raising animals at home for their own consumption in case food supplies should run out amid the Covid-19 pandemic, adding that Lao people had “well-established traditions” in agriculture, and this would absorb the impact of international trade disruption if eventuated.

NERI suggested that landlords of low-cost housing should reduce or defer rental payments, while the government should quickly begin to strengthen the social welfare system so it could better protect the needy in times of future crisis.

The institute also called on the government to better train the Lao workforce with skills suited to modern industries, as the majority of employees remain unskilled.

Vocational education is seen as key to meeting the demand for economic growth and investment.

As a result of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, Laos’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to rise by only 3.3 percent in 2020 – the lowest rate in three and a half decades, according to a new estimate.

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