by Somsack Pongkhao
VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Laos will remain the youngest country in Asia until 2030, yet the landlocked nation continues to struggle to develop a skilled labour force to benefit fully from this demographic dividend as well as regional economic integration.
The proportion of people aged 60 and over in Laos stands at just 6 percent, lower than any other Asian nation according to the Global Age Index 2015.
The percentage of senior citizens is projected to increase to 8.1 per cent by 2030.
The growing working-age population as a percentage of the total is considered a golden opportunity for this nation to further boost economic growth in the next decades.
Nevertheless, economists familiar with Laos say that the country needs to put more effort into labour skill development to respond to the growing needs for socio-economic development.
While ageing is not a matter of concern for this country anytime soon unlike many more developed nations, the challenge of slowing productivity growth remains an issue according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Laos needs to change its structure of production towards encouraging more value-added manufacturing industries and services.
To create a more productive workforce, reforms in the business environment and education and training provision are needed.
Laos has a population of 6.5 million, the majority of which are youth, which is the important factor for boosting economic growth.
Although Laos has a high percentage of young people, their promise will only come to fruition once educated and with the skills to find employment and contribute to the nation’s economic growth.
One of the main problems in Laos is that industrial sectors face a shortage of skilled labour in vocational fields.
Meanwhile, new university graduates are struggling to find jobs.
In Asia, Japan is oldest with 33.1 per cent of its population over 60. The figure is expected to increase to 37.3 per cent by 2030, according to the report.
Meanwhile, South Korea is projected to have the fastest growing elderly population in the next few decades.
The proportion of its older population was 18.5 per cent in 2015, and this is expected to rise to 31.4 per cent by 2030.
Thailand ranked third and is also expected to have one of the fastest-growing elderly populations in the next decade.
Thailand’s elderly population stood at 15.6 per cent of the population. This is projected to grow to 26.9 per cent by 2030, which means one out of four Thais will be a senior citizen.
In China, the elderly population is projected to grow from 15.2 per cent to 25.3 per cent over the same period. Experts have predicted that this trend will impact the Chinese economy.
Typically, many Asian countries will have a larger elderly population in next few decades, as the rate of average population age increase is faster in Asia compared to Europe and the United States.