Laos People - 2021


GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES  Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese


7,574,356 (July 2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 101


noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)

adjective: Lao or Laotian

Ethnic groups

Lao 53.2%, Khmou 11%, Hmong 9.2%, Phouthay 3.4%, Tai 3.1%, Makong 2.5%, Katong 2.2%, Lue 2%, Akha 1.8%, other 11.6% (2015 est.)

note: the Laos Government officially recognizes 49 ethnic groups, but the total number of ethnic groups is estimated to be well over 200


Lao (official), French, English, various ethnic languages

printed major-language sample:
ແຫລ່ງທີ່ຂາດບໍ່ໄດ້ສຳລັບຂໍ້ມູນຕົ້ນຕໍ່” (Lao)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.


Buddhist 64.7%, Christian 1.7%, none 31.4%, other/not stated 2.1% (2015 est.)

Demographic profile

Laos is a predominantly rural country with a youthful population – almost 55% of the population is under the age of 25.  Its progress on health and development issues has been uneven geographically, among ethnic groups, and socioeconomically.  Laos has made headway in poverty reduction, with the poverty rate almost halving from 46% in 1992/93 to 22% in 2012/13.  Nevertheless, pronounced rural-urban disparities persist, and income inequality is rising.  Poverty most affects populations in rural and highland areas, particularly ethnic minority groups. 

The total fertility rate (TFR) has decreased markedly from around 6 births per woman on average in 1990 to approximately 2.8 in 2016, but it is still one of the highest in Southeast Asia.  TFR is higher in rural and remote areas, among ethnic minority groups, the less-educated, and the poor; it is lower in urban areas and among the more educated and those with higher incomes.  Although Laos’ mortality rates have improved substantially over the last few decades, the maternal mortality rate and childhood malnutrition remain at high levels.  As fertility and mortality rates continue to decline, the proportion of Laos’ working-age population will increase, and its share of dependents will shrink.  The age structure shift will provide Laos with the potential to realize a demographic dividend during the next few decades, if it can improve educational access and quality and gainfully employ its growing working-age population in productive sectors.  Currently, Laos primary school enrollment is nearly universal, but the drop-out rate remains problematic.  Secondary school enrollment has also increased but remains low, especially for girls. 

Laos has historically been a country of emigration and internal displacement due to conflict and a weak economy. The Laos civil war (1953 – 1975) mainly caused internal displacement (numbering in the hundreds of thousands).  Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, indigenous people in remote, war-struck areas were resettled and more than 300,000 people fled to Thailand to escape the communist regime that took power.  The majority of those who sought refuge in Thailand ultimately were resettled in the US (mainly Hmong who fought with US forces), and lesser numbers went to France, Canada, and Australia. 

The Laos Government carried out resettlement programs between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s to relocate ethnic minority groups from the rural northern highlands to development areas in the lowlands ostensibly to alleviate poverty, make basic services more accessible, eliminate slash-and-burn agriculture and opium production, integrate ethnic minorities, and control rebel groups (including Hmong insurgents).  For many, however, resettlement has exacerbated poverty, led to the loss of livelihoods, and increased food insecurity and mortality rates.  As the resettlement programs started to wane in the second half of the 1990s, migration from the northern highlands to urban centers – chiefly the capital Vientiane – to pursue better jobs in the growing manufacturing and service sectors became the main type of relocation.  Migration of villagers from the south seeking work in neighboring Thailand also increased.  Thailand is the main international migration destination for Laotians because of the greater availability of jobs and higher pay than at home; nearly a million Laotian migrants were estimated to live in Thailand as of 2015.

Age structure

0-14 years: 31.25% (male 1,177,297/female 1,149,727)

15-24 years: 20.6% (male 763,757/female 770,497)

25-54 years: 38.29% (male 1,407,823/female 1,443,774)

55-64 years: 5.73% (male 206,977/female 219,833)

65 years and over: 4.13% (male 139,665/female 168,046) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 56.8

youth dependency ratio: 50.1

elderly dependency ratio: 6.7

potential support ratio: 15 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 24 years

male: 23.7 years

female: 24.4 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 170

Population growth rate

1.46% (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 66

Birth rate

22.74 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 57

Death rate

7.12 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 115

Net migration rate

-0.99 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 144

Population distribution

most densely populated area is in and around the capital city of Vientiane; large communities are primarily found along the Mekong River along the southwestern border; overall density is considered one of the lowest in Southeast Asia


urban population: 36.9% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 2.99% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

694,000 VIENTIANE (capital) (2021)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female

total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

185 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 50

Infant mortality rate

total: 49.48 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 55.75 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 42.95 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 25

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 66 years

male: 63.83 years

female: 68.26 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 195

Total fertility rate

2.57 children born/woman (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 68

Contraceptive prevalence rate

54.1% (2017)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 94.4% of population

rural: 76.8% of population

total: 82.1% of population

unimproved: urban: 5.6% of population

rural: 23.2% of population

total: 17.9% of population (2017 est.)

Current Health Expenditure

2.3% (2018)

Physicians density

0.37 physicians/1,000 population (2017)

Hospital bed density

1.5 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 98% of population

rural: 66.3% of population

total: 77.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 2% of population

rural: 33.7% of population

total: 22.8% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

0.3% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 84

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

15,000 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 91

HIV/AIDS - deaths

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

5.3% (2016)

country comparison to the world: 179

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

21.1% (2017)

country comparison to the world: 18

Education expenditures

2.9% of GDP (2014)

country comparison to the world: 136


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 84.7%

male: 90%

female: 79.4% (2015)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 11 years

male: 11 years

female: 10 years (2019)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 18.2%

male: 20.8%

female: 15.5% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 80

NOTE: The information regarding Laos on this page is re-published from the 2021 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Laos 2021 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Laos 2021 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 16 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.