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Are we ready for ASEAN? Lets hear it from Laotians!
Quarterly Article by Indochina Research Ltd. Q2 2016
Indochina Research Ltd conducted an opinion poll* in Vientiane Capital  to understand what do people of Laos actually know about ASEAN and how do they think it will impact them.
Awareness about ASEAN
people know what ASEAN is and what it aims at doing
17 %
have heard about ASEAN but not sure what it means
14 %
of people in the capital have not heard about ASEAN
We asked people what they understood about ASEAN and it's aim : 57% spontaneously said it means the opening of borders for more trade and investment between countries. Next, people mentioned the freeflow of labor force that opening borders would create – offering more opportunities to skilled Laotians abroad (25%).  Others (19%) saw it as a chance for Lao PDR to get more investment from other countries.
ASEAN will lead to more trade and more investment
Perceived threat of competition
77% of people in Vientiane agreed that ASEAN will bring more competition from foreign goods and services coming in the market which could be a threat to local companies. So ASEAN is recognized to have benefits and dangers for people of Laos. They are looking forward to more cross border investments but are also worry of the potential competition it will bring in the local market.
Willingness to relocate in the ASEAN region for better work opportunities
*Random selection of 200 respondents aged between18-55, split evenly between male and female.
Preferred countries to move to for career opportunities
In a nutshell...
Many people have positive speculations about ASEAN – they feel that it will make Laos more significant on the map, it will be more under limelight than it is right now. But there are also those who fear change – they feel threatened by the competition they will face in terms of social & knowledge capital and also the new cultures and trends being brought in by the opening of its borders to other countries.
With all this competition from different countries, we asked Vientiane residents where they thought skills needed developing the most in Laos.  We discovered that the top 3 areas where people of Laos want the government and development projects to focus on the most are :   1- Education/Teaching   2- Medicine   3- Business Studies. No surprise for Education & Medicine, however "Business studies" comes third in the list of capacity building areas. Lao people recognize that more important than other fields like law, engineering or agriculture, it is important that they have well qualified business graduates who can plan and build the country based on critical economic and business insight to compete.
Capacity building areas to focus on
“It will make other countries be aware of our country and will open trade and tourism with Laos” says an employee working in a private company in Vientiane.
“There will be more people coming to our country,  it will bring more social issues. When trading products become easier across countries, it will make trading of illegal products become easier as well” a middle aged businessman in Vientiane reflected when asked about the possible threats of ASEAN to the country.
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