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Laos People - 2024


GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES  Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese


7,852,377 (2023 est.)


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

major-language sample(s):
ແຫລ່ງທີ່ຂາດບໍ່ໄດ້ສຳລັບຂໍ້ມູນຕົ້ນຕໍ່” (Lao)

The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information.

Lao audio sample:


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: 30.63% (male 1,218,731/female 1,186,156)

15-64 years: 64.73% (male 2,527,643/female 2,555,029)

65 years and over: 4.65% (2023 est.) (male 169,142/female 195,676)

2023 population pyramid:

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 54.7

youth dependency ratio: 48

elderly dependency ratio: 6.7

potential support ratio: 14.8 (2021 est.)

Median age

total: 25 years (2023 est.)

male: 24.6 years

female: 25.3 years

Population growth rate

1.3% (2023 est.)

Birth rate

20.4 births/1,000 population (2023 est.)

Death rate

6.3 deaths/1,000 population (2023 est.)

Net migration rate

-1.1 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2023 est.)

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: 38.2% of total population (2023)

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

Major urban areas - population

721,000 VIENTIANE (capital) (2023)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.03 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female

total population: 1 male(s)/female (2023 est.)

Maternal mortality ratio

126 deaths/100,000 live births (2020 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 36.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2023 est.)

male: 40.4 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 32.6 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 68.6 years (2023 est.)

male: 67 years

female: 70.3 years

Total fertility rate

2.3 children born/woman (2023 est.)

Gross reproduction rate

1.13 (2023 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

54.1% (2017)

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 97.1% of population

rural: 84.1% of population

total: 88.8% of population

unimproved: urban: 2.9% of population

rural: 15.9% of population

total: 11.2% of population (2020 est.)

Current health expenditure

2.7% of GDP (2020)

Physicians density

0.35 physicians/1,000 population (2020)

Hospital bed density

1.5 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 72% of population

total: 82.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 28% of population

total: 17.8% of population (2020 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2023)

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

vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, and sexually transmitted diseases: hepatitis B (2024)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

5.3% (2016)

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 8.15 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 3.62 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0.07 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 4.46 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

Tobacco use

total: 31.8% (2020 est.)

male: 53.3% (2020 est.)

female: 10.3% (2020 est.)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

21.1% (2017)

Currently married women (ages 15-49)

60.1% (2023 est.)

Child marriage

women married by age 15: 7.1%

women married by age 18: 32.7%

men married by age 18: 10.8% (2017 est.)

Education expenditures

2.3% of GDP (2020 est.)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 87.1%

male: 91.4%

female: 81.4% (2021)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 10 years

male: 10 years

female: 10 years (2020)

NOTE: The information regarding Laos on this page is re-published from the 2024 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Laos 2024 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Laos 2024 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 04 May 24, Copyright © 2024 ITA all rights reserved.