The need for vocational training in the Laotian industry

The growth of free trade has promoted the globalisation of export-oriented, labour-intensive industries (True 2012). Women play a major role in the global economy. In fact, the global economy would not function without women’s paid and unpaid work. Women’s labour is therefore at the heart of globalisation (Barton and Nazombei 2000).

Women constitute the majority of workers in export industries, such as textiles and food. The textile industry is especially globalised and, with millions of workers worldwide, has the potential to boost social and economic development. The majority of workers in the textile industry are low-educated women. Often, these women work under precarious conditions with little social and labour protection (True 2012; International Labour Organization and Better Work 2016).

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lao PDR experienced impressive economic growth and poverty reduction. From 2008 to 2019, its average economic growth was 7.2 percent. Women’s participation in the labour market has increased over the last decade. Currently, the majority of informal workers are women, but the gender wage gap persists. Lack of education and economic opportunities pushes women into the informal sector and into jobs without decent working conditions.

Vocational skills training is a tool for women and other marginalised or vulnerable groups to access better work. The research project “Skills for Industry”1 focuses on the interrelation between skills training and inclusive industrial development in Laos.

On the one hand, the research showed that Lao PDR companies, including those in the textile sector, often have not prepared knowledge of their workers’ educational and skills qualifications and do not offer pre- or in-employment skills programmes. During their first days of employment, workers simply receive on-the-job training (Maurer and Teutoburg-Weiss 2020).

On the other hand, the data collected reveals that, in some companies, there is initial training, especially on safety and regulations. Employers consider such in-employment skills training to be more important than pre-employment skills programmes.

Furthermore, 61 percent of the industrial companies surveyed stated that they lacked skilled workers. Companies with high growth, in particular, reported difficulties recruiting skilled labourers. It is clear that skilled labour is needed. For vocational skills training to be successful and for women to have better access to decent work, it is important to link vocational skills training initiatives to specific industries and their needs. Employers must also play a role in the development of vocational skills training initiatives (Maurer and Teutoburg-Weiss 2020).

Economic growth does not automatically lead to decent work and the formalisation of informal employment. However, if this economic transformation is accompanied by gender-responsive policies, informal jobs can be transformed into formal jobs. In this way, women and men can have equal opportunities to access decent employment (Espino and de los Santos Daniela 2021).


Barton, Carol; Nazombei, Elvira (2000): Women’s labour and economic globalisation: a participatory workshop created by Alternative Women in Development (Alt-WID). In Gender and development 8 (1), pp. 35–44. DOI: 10.1080/741923416.

Espino, Alma; de los Santos Daniela (2021): Labour Markets and Inforaml Worker in the South. In Günseli Berik, Ebru Kongar (Eds.): The Routledge Handbook of Feminist Economies. London: Routledge, pp. 198–206.

International Labour Organization; Better Work (2016): Progress and Potential. How Better Work is improving garment workers’ lives and boosting factory competitiveness. A summary of an independent assessment. International Labour Organization. Geneva, checked on 5/28/2021.

International Labour Organization (2020): Gendered impacts of COVID-19 on the garment sector. ILO brief. International Labour Organization, Geneva.

Maurer, Markus; Teutoburg-Weiss, Hannes (2020): Erste Ergebnisse aus dem Projekt «Skills-for-Industry». In Transfer, Berufsbildung in Forschung und Praxis.

True, Jacqui (2012): The Political Economy of Violence against Women: Oxford University Press, checked on 5/28/2021.

Related link

Better Work (2021). https://betterwork.org/