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Urbanisation empowers Lao women: study
Publication Date : 08-03-2013
Growing urbanisation in Laos is providing more opportunities for women to start up a business so they can contribute to the family income, a new study reveals.
According to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank funded Country Gender Assessment for Laos, the share of women owning enterprises in urban areas has reached 52 per cent, while 48 per cent of enterprises in cities are owned by men.
The increasing number of women doing business in cities is the result of spreading urbanisation. As the number of consumers grows, there is a corresponding need for more shops, so women are increasingly selling goods from their homes or in markets.
However, in rural areas, the share of women managing a business is less than men, with only 47 per cent of businesses owned by women.
A survey carried out in five major provinces by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) also finds that the share of businesses owned or managed by women rose from 36 per cent in 2005 to 41 per cent in 2009.
However, most of the businesses run by women are very small compared to those owned by men.
Operations run by women have fewer employees and 2.5 times less turnover. The average size of the businesses owned by women on start-up is 29.5 employees, compared with 94.9 for start-ups owned by men. Women's enterprises are less likely to be part of a larger group of companies, and less likely to be foreign-owned, the Country Gender Assessment highlights.
The assessment also finds that women's businesses employ more female workers and use less technology, and their senior managers tend to be less educated than those in male-owned firms. Only 20 per cent of the women's enterprises, compared with 43 per cent of male-owned firms, employ a top manager with a graduate degree from a foreign university.
The female-owned enterprises are less likely to have a bank account overdraft or credit line. Those that do have a credit line are typically required to have greater collateral than male-owned firms.
The top three constraints faced by women's and men's operations are high tax rates, difficulty in accessing finance and an inadequately educated workforce. But women's businesses are more likely than men's to cite financial obstacles as the largest constraint.
Women in Laos are generally young when they s tart a business. Nearly half of all female respondents claim to have started their enterprise when they were less than 30 years old. Nine per cent of the women surveyed were younger than 20, while 40 per cent were aged 20-29, according to the assessment.