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When young Lao couples move out, do they need to find work?

By: Thomas Wanhoff Posted: December-28-2011 in
Lao life: Having a beer with friends. But is this all?
Thomas Wanhoff

A Lao friend recently complained about finding and keeping staff. She said, Lao people may not need to work.. Yesterday I read in the Vientiane Times that mining companies are trying their best to hire local people - however, it is still a skill problem. But as you may know from my podcast episode with Titi about career development, there is also a lack of knowledge about what working in a job means at all.

For example: I know a girl working in a coffee shop. She is looking for a better job, so I arranged an interview with the owner of a foreign owned restaurant. Guess who did not show up? She said she wasn't feeling well and had headaches. I had this experience many times when I try to help Lao people finding another job. Don't the need to work?

Let's have a look into the Lao society. In general, it is build around the family (there is a new trend I will explain later on). Family has a very high value in the Lao (also the Asian) society. The main reason is that family is providing shelter and security. It is kind of a big holding company where some enterprises are more and some other are less successful. At the end, the money is the family's money and you help each other. Also, parents want to get their kids a better life (as in most other cultures as well), so they will pay for nearly everything to make the kids happy and successful. The latter is important as they expect the kids to generate the income in the future. So as long as some of the family make enough money, the others can be a bit more relaxed.

Unfortunately this is changing dramatically. Two trends are important: single young males and females moving to the cities and young couples moving into their own house or room. The singles are basically workers and students, exploring new opportunities and experiences a new life style (there is a reason why most movies in Lao covering this topic). They actually need to work hard to survive. But they still struggle with the tradition of living laid back and taking things easy. When they fail, they fall hard.

The young couples have a different approach: They are middle class people, with a family that can afford to build them a house or buy an Apartment. Without the family support they rarely can afford their life style. since they are more educated and even studied abroad, they are kind of the ones creating the future of Laos. But as long as there is a huge support from the family, there is not much of an incentive to work hard and build a career. As my friend said: "They don't suffer."

For now it is nearly impossible to find senior accounting staff in Laos. Also, it is quite hard to get motivated staff in hospitality. One is a education problem, the latter a mindset. Both has to be changed, if Laos wants to keep pace with other countries. It is not about lazyness, it is a bout adapting to a modern world. And get me right: The world is changing, and the huge majority of Lao people appreciate this. They just have to figure out how to find their place in it.

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