Demographics of Laos


This article is about the demographic features of the population of Laos, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.
A street market in Luang Prabang.

Laos' population was estimated at about 6 million in July 2004, dispersed unevenly across the country. Most people live in valleys of the Mekong River and its tributaries. Vientiane Prefecture, which includes Vientiane, the capital and largest city of the country, had about 569,000 residents in 1999. The country's population density is 23.4/km².


The demographic makeup of the population is uncertain as the government divides the people into three groups according to the altitude at which they live, rather than according to ethnic origin. The lowland Lao (Lao Loum) account for 68%, upland Lao (Lao Theung) for 22%, and the highland Lao (Lao Soung, including the Hmong and the Yao) for 9%. Ethnic Vietnamese constitutes about 2% of the population.

Ethnic Lao, the principal lowland inhabitants and politically and culturally dominant group, make up the bulk of the Lao Loum and around 60% of the total population. The Lao are a branch of the Tai people who began migrating southward from China in the first millennium A.D. In the north, there are mountain tribes of Miao-Yao, Austro-Asiatic, Tibeto-Burman - Hmong, Yao, Akha, and Lahu who migrated into the region in the 19th century. Collectively, they are known as Lao Sung or highland Lao. In the central and southern mountains, Mon-Khmer tribes known as Lao Theung or upland Lao, predominate. Some Vietnamese and Chinese minorities remain, particularly in the towns, but many left in two waves - after independence in the late 1940s and again after 1975.

The predominant religion is Theravada Buddhism. Animism is common among the mountain tribes. Buddhism and spirit worship coexist easily. There also is a small number of Christians and Muslims.

The official and dominant language is Lao, a tonal language of the Tai linguistic group. Midslope and highland Lao speak an assortment of tribal languages. French, once common in government and commerce, has declined in usage, while knowledge of English - the language of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - has increased in recent years.

Demographic Statistics

The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.

Population: 6,834,942 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 40.8% (male 1,400,126/female 1,386,480)
15-64 years: 56.1% (male 1,898,995/female 1,936,892)
65 years and over: 3.1% (male 92,070/female 120,379) (2009 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.316% (2009 est.)
Birth rate: 33.94 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate: 11.02 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2000 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 77.82 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 56.68 years (2009 est.)
male: 54.56 years (2009 est.)
female: 58.9years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.41 (2009 est.)
noun: Lao(s) or Laotian(s)
adjective: Lao or Laotian

Ethnic groups:
Lao 55%, Khmu 11%, Hmong 8%, other (over 100 minor ethnic groups) 26% (2005 census)
Religions: Buddhist 67%, Christian 1.5%, other and unspecified 31.5% (see Religion in Laos)
Languages: Lao (official), French, English, and various ethnic languages
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 68.7%
male: 77%
female: 60.9% (2001 est.)