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Household Welfare Monitoring in the Lao PDR

Two young men walk home across the fields in Oudomxay, northern Laos.

Farm workers return home across fields in Oudomxay province

Photo: Aiden Glendinning / World Bank

New briefSurvey Round 6

The World Bank in the Lao PDR began a series of Rapid Monitoring Phone Surveys in 2020 to monitor the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on Lao households. Following the end of the pandemic, surveys continue so that data is available for the ongoing economic challenges.

Hopes of a rapid economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic have been dimmed by internal and external factors that threaten household living standards. Domestically, currency depreciation and high inflation, resulting from high levels of external debt and low foreign exchange reserves, have led to rising prices, particularly for imported fuel, food, and medicine. Inflation reached 40.3 percent (year-on-year) in January 2023, while the kip lost 50 percent of its value over the year up to January 2023.

While economic activities have recently picked up, the rising cost of living is having widespread effects, and these ongoing surveys provide insights into the distribution of the impact on Lao families. The first survey was conducted from June 20 to July 16, 2020, when Laos had just exited the first nationwide COVID-19 lockdown. The second round was conducted from February 26 to March 24, 2021, one year into the pandemic. A third round followed from April 26 to May 30, 2021, early in the second lockdown, and a fourth survey carried out from October 25 to November 19, 2021, as lockdown measures began to ease. The fifth round occurred April 29 to May 23, 2022, and the sixth and latest survey ran from December 5, 2022, to January 4, 2023.

This webpage provides links to the results of all survey rounds, plus a report on public service delivery and citizen expectations from the government response to COVID-19, drawing mainly on results from the second survey round. Round 6 is also accompanied by a qualitative survey, conducted in late 2022 to provide a better understanding of how rural people perceived the economic and social impacts of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the deteriorating economic situation, particularly spiraling inflation. 

The survey questionnaire is designed to cover themes such as access to food staples, food insecurity, employment, the impact of inflation on households, family businesses and farms, economic activities and income, coping mechanisms, and access to social assistance. The results of further rounds of the survey will be published as they become available.

Last Updated: Apr 25, 2023

Latest Key Results

  • Employment picked up slightly in the second half of 2022, with workers shifting from agriculture to services. Low-skilled and rural workers benefited most from this recovery.
  • Labor income improved, and the number of workers needing to take a second job declined.
  • About 11% of family farms experienced disruptions in 2022, mainly due to natural disaster, and cash and labor shortages.
  • Revenues from family businesses improved in 2022, particularly for agricultural businesses. This is important for low-income and rural households.
  • The share of households reporting income losses due to the pandemic fell from 43% in May 2022 to 35% in December 2022.
  • Households diversified their income sources, with rural households taking up wage-generating activities and urban households receiving more income from businesses and remittances.
  • Almost 90% of respondents have been affected by inflation since the beginning of 2022, with 57% experiencing a significant impact. Inflation and currency depreciation were cited by 90% of respondents as the most pressing issues that the government should address first.
  • In response to rising fuel prices, around 80% of affected households reduced consumption.
  • Most affected households responded to food price inflation by growing or foraging food, switching to cheaper food, or reducing food consumption. Low-income households were more likely to borrow and use credit purchases than high-income households.
  • More than 90% of family businesses reported facing operational challenges due to inflation, kip depreciation, and fuel shortages.
  • About 90% of family farms reported increases in fuel and agricultural input prices, leading to reduced crop production. Natural hazards are also highly detrimental to crop production.
  • Inflation adversely affected most Lao households by compressing household budgets, forcing people to borrow or use savings and to reduce their health and education spending.
  • Children from low-income households showed higher instances of dropping out of school.
  • Food security improved in the second half of 2022, but improvements were less pronounced among urban and low-income families.
  • Almost all households were able to access government administrative and health services.

Last Updated: Apr 24, 2023