The estimated labor force was 2.4 million in 1999. In the absence of additional data, it is estimated that 85% are subsistence farmers, with most of the remainder in the public sector as of 1997. In that year the unemployment rate was approximately5.7%.
Labor is organized into a single Federation of Lao Trade Unions (FLTU) which is controlled by the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP), the authoritarian governmental body. In 2002, the vast majority of the 78,000 members of the FLTU were in the public sector. There is no right to organize, strike, or bargain collectively. Labor disputes have so far been infrequent and the desperate economic situation means that workers have little bargaining power.
Children under the age of 15 are forbidden by law from working, but many children work for their families in farms or in shops due to extreme economic hardship. The daily minimum wage was $.53 in 2002. The labor code limits the workweek to 48 hours with at least one day of rest.