National Profiles > Regions > South-Eastern Asia > Laos
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Region: South-Eastern Asia
2015 Population1: 6,874,918
Total Area (sq.miles): 91,429
Life Expectancy at Birth2: 66.3
Gross National Income Per Capita (PPP 2016 US $)2: $5,920
Official Religion(s) or Church(es)3: Buddhism

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Religious Regulation Index (2014)4:
RAS3 State Regulation of Majority or All Religions, Summary Categories (0=None; 1=Low; 2=Medium; 3=High)

Ranking: 36/253

[Further Detail]
Religious Minority Discrimination Index (2014)4:
RAS3 State Discrimination of Minority Religions, Summary Categories (0=None; 1=Low; 2=Medium; 3=High)

Ranking: 4/253

[Further Detail]
State Funding of Religions (2014)4:
RAS3 State Funding of Religion, Summary Categories (0=None; 1=Low; 2=Medium; 3=High)

Ranking: 128/253

[Further Detail]
Societal Discrimination of Minority Religions (2014)4:
RAS3 Societal Discrimination of Minority Religions, Summary Categories (0=None; 1=Low; 2=Medium; 3=High)

Ranking: 91/253

[Further Detail]


Laos, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic (LPDR) (French: République démocratique populaire lao), is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south, and Thailand to the west. Since 1975, it has been ruled by a Marxist and communist government. Its population was estimated to be around 6.8 million in July 2014. Significant corruption exists in the Lao government, military, and communist party in the LPDR, and the legacy of a command economy, as well as excess spending on military and defense budgets during the Cold War and its aftermath, have continued to impoverish Laos. According to the anti-corruption non-governmental organization Transparency International, Laos remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world. This has deterred foreign investment and created major problems with the rule of law, including the nation's ability to enforce contract and business regulation. Consequently, a third of the population of Laos currently lives below the international poverty line (living on less than US$1.25 per day). Laos has a low-income economy, with one of the lowest annual incomes in the world. In 2013, Laos ranked the 138th place (tied with Cambodia) on the Human Development Index (HDI), indicating that Laos has lower medium to low development. According to the Global Hunger Index (2013), Laos ranks as the 25th hungriest nation in the world out of the list of the 56 nations with the worst hunger situation(s). Laos has had a poor human rights record most particularly dealing with the nation's acts of genocide being committed towards its Hmong population. Laos traces its history to the kingdom of Lan Xang, which existed from the 14th to the 18th century when it split into three kingdoms. In 1893, it became a French protectorate, with the three kingdoms — Luang Phrabang, Vientiane and Champasak — uniting to form what is now known as Laos. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but returned to French rule until it was granted autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1953, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. Shortly after independence, a long civil war ended the monarchy, when the Communist Pathet Lao movement came to power in 1975. Laos is a single-party socialist republic. It espouses Marxism and is governed by a single party communist politburo dominated by military generals. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Vietnam People's Army continue to have significant influence in Laos. The capital city is Vientiane. Other large cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, and Pakse. The official language is Lao. Laos is a multi-ethnic country with the politically and culturally dominant Lao people making up approximately 60% of the population, mostly in the lowlands. Mon-Khmer groups, the Hmong, and other indigenous hill tribes, accounting for 40% of the population, live in the foothills and mountains. Laos' strategy for development is based on generating electricity from its rivers and selling the power to its neighbours, namely Thailand, China, and Vietnam. Its economy is accelerating rapidly with the demands for its metals. It is a member of the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), East Asia Summit and La Francophonie. Laos applied for membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1997; on 2 February 2013, it was granted full membership.5



1.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Demographics reports the estimates of religious demographics, both country by country and region by region. The RCS was created to fulfill the unmet need for a dataset on the religious dimensions of countries of the world, with the state-year as the unit of observation. It estimates populations and percentages of adherents of 100 religious denominations including second level subdivision within Christianity and Islam. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson the principal investigator of the World Christian Database and the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database.

2.  Relying on agencies from each country, as well as a synthesis of data from United Nations divisions, Eurostate Demographic statistics, the U.S. Census international database, and its own data collection, the World Bank's Open Data site offers free and open access to data about development in countries around the globe.

3.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Government Religious Preference (GRP) measures government-level favoritism toward, and disfavor against, 30 religious denominations. A series of ordered categorical variables index the state's institutional favoritism in 28 different ways. The variables are combined to form five composite indices for five broad components of state-religion: official status, religious education, financial support, regulatory burdens, and freedom of practice. The five components' composites in turn are further combined into a single composite score, the GRP score. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson, the principal investigator of the World Christian Database, the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database, and co-author of the World Christian Encyclopedia series.

4.  The Religion and State (RAS) Project is a university-based project located at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. Its goal is to create a set of measures that systematically gauge the intersection between government and religion. Specifically, it examines government religion policy. Round 3 of the RAS dataset measures the extent of government involvement in religion (GIR) or the lack thereof for 183 states on a yearly basis between 1990 and 2014. This constitutes all countries with populations of 250,000 or more as well as a sampling of smaller states. This dataset, featuring this and other international measures highlighted on the country pages, may be previewed and downloaded here. Used with permission.

5.  Note: All country histories and flags were obtained from, 2015. (

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