Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has called for authorities in charge to speed up work to create a more highly skilled workforce to meet the growing needs of social and economic development.

Thongloun gave the advice when speaking at the 8th meeting of the National Commission for Human Resource Development held in Vientiane on Wednesday, according to the Pasaxon newspaper.

The commission was told to collect data and analyse information so its members could formulate a plan and policies to strengthen the country’s workforce.

Thongloun asked the commission to regularly follow up, support and assess the implementation of the national human resource development strategy.

His advice comes as Laos is struggling to improve the skills of the workforce and productivity lags behind that of many other countries in the region.

The median labour productivity (value-added per worker) in Laos was $4,600, which was 10 per cent lower than in Cambodia and less than half that of Vietnam, the World Bank said in its 2018 Doing Business in Laos report.

There has been no significant variation in productivity between 2009 and 2016. Wages are low, but relatively high compared to worker production levels, suggesting workers have low human capital, the report added.

The strong Lao economy, which has recorded high-level growth, has spurred the demand for skilled workers, but the lack of skills among the workforce is the most commonly cited constraint for businesses.

Although the government has exerted a greater effort with strategy and policies formulated, more needs to be done to realise those policies.

In his address at Wednesday’s meeting, the prime minister told the commission and other sectors concerned to study and analyse the national human resource development strategy to create a programme, work plan, and activity plan to fulfil this strategy.

Participants were also told to develop a labour market data system, which would be a reference in improving human resources in line with market demand.

Thongloun told the meeting, which was chaired by the Minister of Education and Sports Sengdeuane Lachanthaboun, to take action to prevent ill-intentioned people from deceiving others into paying them to arrange scholarships in foreign countries, which did not materialise.

In this regard, the recommended action includes formulating legislation while exploring measures and criteria that allow only qualified applicants and students to receive scholarships and study at educational institutions.