Laos Population, People, Languages and Religions

By | January 21, 2022

Laos Country Overview

Where is Laos located? The landlocked country of Laos is located in Southeast Asia. On the time zone map, Laos is divided into a time zone called “Indochina Time” (ICT). The standard difference in this world time zone to the coordinated world time is 7 hours. Clocks in Laos are always 7 hours later than world time (UTC+7). In summer, there is no change in daylight saving time.

Laos National Flag

Population Distribution

As of 2023, the latest population of Laos is 7,447,396, based on our calculation of the current data from UN (United Nations).

Total population 7,447,396
Population growth rate 1.44%
Birth rate 23.60 births per 1,000 people
Life expectancy
Overall 63.14 years
Men 61.20 years
Women 65.17 years
Age structure
0-14 years 32.19%
15-64 years 63.86%
65 years and above 3.95%
Median age 22.30 years
Gender ratio (Male to Female) 0.99
Population density 31.45 residents per km²
Urbanization 20.70%
49 ethnic groups in all: 55% Lao-Lum (Tal-Lao), 27% Lao-Theung (Mountain-Lao), 15% Lao-Soung (Hmong, Meo); Minorities of Chinese and others Thai
Buddhists 66.8% Christians 1.5% Animists and Other 31%
Human Development Index (HDI) 0.604
HDI ranking 140th out of 194

People in Laos

The population in Laos is just under seven million people. Laos is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Asia. Since the mountain regions are difficult to access, most of them live in the lowlands of the Mekong River. 20 out of 100 people live in the country’s cities, which are not nearly as big as other Asian cities. Just 600,000 people live in the capital of the country Vientiane and that is already the largest city in Laos.

The population is roughly divided into three groups, whereby this division goes back to the colonial time of the country (compare also history and politics) and should only be used very carefully:

The Lao Loum live in the more densely populated lowlands of the country and 60 from 100 Laotians belong to this ethnic group. The Lao Theung inhabit the middle mountain areas. 20 out of 100 Laotians belong to this second ethnic group. They are among the oldest ethnic groups in Laos. In the mountainous part of Laos are the Lao Soungat home. This is the smallest tribe in Laos in terms of numbers. 10 out of 100 Laotians belong to this tribe. At one point their ancestors immigrated from southern China. This smaller ethnic group is again divided into many small tribes.

Conflicts between ethnic groups

But there are many other tribes besides these three very roughly subdivided. All tribes again have sub-tribes. The many ethnic groups do not always understand and get along well, so that time and again there were quarrels or serious conflicts between the individual ethnic groups.


The people in Laos are very poor. There is no insurance system like pension insurance, and medical care is very poor. Laos is one of the poorest countries in the world. For many children this means that they are not allowed to go to school and sometimes have to go hungry. You can read more about the life of children under “Everyday Life”.

Languages in Laos

Lao is very similar to Thai, the language spoken in Thailand. Both languages ​​belong to the same language family, so many Laotians understand and speak both languages. But if you don’t understand either one yourself, it becomes difficult to communicate in the country. In tourist regions, many people also speak English, but Laos is far from being as touristically conquered as Thailand. Therefore you should be prepared for the good old “hands-feet-language” when visiting.

Laos used to be part of French Indochina (see also History and Politics) and a colony of France. That is why you can still find many street names in French in the capital Vientiane. Older residents speak French rather than English, which, like everywhere else in the world, is becoming the language of commerce.

Since the country has opened up more to tourism, many people can speak English, at least in the big cities. Younger people who also went to school have a few bits of English, but often only verbally and very few only in written form.

Otherwise there are 80 tribal dialects and also the languages ​​of the immigrants such as Khmer, Vietnamese or Mandarin, all of which have also found a home in Laos.

In the following photos you can see people of different origins who all live in Laos.

Religions in Laos

60 out of 100 people in Laos live their Buddhist faith. It is a special type of Buddhism called Theravada Buddhism. All male Laotians spend a certain amount of time as monks. Usually young men who have just finished school and are not yet in professional life serve as monks. Besides the Buddhists there are also animists. There are few Muslims and Christians in Laos.