Laos, at a Glance

Laos is one of the least developed countries ranking 133 out of 177 countries, trailing both Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma) (2005 United Nations Human development index).

An astounding 41% of the population is under the age of 14 and the mean age is only 18.9.

23% of the population lives on less than $1 a day, 73% lives on less than $2 a day (2003).

Subsistence agriculture, dominated by rice, accounts for about half of GDP and provides 80% of total employment.

The percentage of the population that have never been to school has dropped to 23%.

With only 8% of villages/towns having lower secondary schools, students often move and live with relatives, on their own, or at temples as novice monks to be able to continue their education (2003).

Books are rare in Laos, school texts are often unavailable and books are often cost prohibitive.

Laos has 68 different ethnic groups, divided into 3 or 4 major groups: Lao Loum (lowland) 53%, Lao Theung (upland) 23%, Lao Tai (Tai) 13%, Lao Soung (highland) including the Hmong 10%, other 1%.

Life expectancy at birth is 54.5 years (2005).

Laos was the most heavily bombed country in the history of warfare. Even with clearance programs in place, unexploded ordinances will remain a problem for years to come.

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map of Laos - click to view larger image