Work in Laos is generally quite hard to come by, and as the economy is in quite a poor state throughout the country, levels of pay are generally low even if you do manage to secure employment. The best way for expatriates to earn money in the country is by teaching English at one of Laos’s schools or colleges.
Laos’s main industry is the growing, preparing and selling of rice. Around 80% of the arable land that exists in Laos is used for growing rice, though the amount of arable land in the country as a whole is very small, as much of the country consists of wild forest, mountains, and the Mekong River. Laos also currently relies heavily on international aid and development funds from the IMF and from the neighboring countries of China, Thailand and Vietnam. Still, due to the wilderness that makes up a lot of Laos’s landmass, the country is also a large exporter of hydroelectric energy, especially to its neighboring countries.
Despite the relative poverty of the country, Laos is rich in natural resources; a factor which the government hopes will attract further foreign investment in years to come, especially as these natural resources include gold, copper, and coal. Though work is likely to become available in these industries in the future, the main form of employment for expats currently living in the country is teaching English to local people in many of Laos’s schools and colleges.
Looking for work in Laos can be difficult, as the country has quite a relaxed attitude and there are high levels of corruption within the government as a whole. For expatriates, teaching English to students is one of the main ways to earn money, so applying directly to the colleges and schools in the country is one of the best ways to find work in Laos, though checking local newspapers and magazines is one of the more traditional ways to apply for jobs.
It is often very hard to get a work permit in Laos, unless you can prove that you have already gained secure employment, which is often hard to come by in a country that is so poor. It is, however, possible for expatriates to gain work teaching English in schools and colleges and get a work permit this way; the salary of such positions can vary greatly though.
It is also likely that many companies will try to make you cover the cost of your application for a work visa once you have gained employment with them, and these costs are generally in the range of 400 USD or more. Volunteering is now a popular pastime in Laos, as it is such a poor country and many travelers, tourists, and expats choose to donate their time to local charities for free in order to give something back to the country.