Story: Laotians

Page 2. Community

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Life and work

The Laotian population has integrated well, while still retaining their cultural identity. But the resettlement process was difficult. Dealing with the loss of family members and adapting to a new lifestyle was compounded by insufficient English skills. As a result, many had to take unsatisfactory employment, and suffered feelings of isolation and distress. Most were employed in manual or processing jobs, found with the help of relatives, friends and sponsors. Of those who had obtained professional qualifications in their home country, few were able to find employment equal to their expertise.

Today, Laotians continue to work predominantly in blue-collar occupations. In 2013, 62% of those employed were trade workers, labourers or plant and machine operators and drivers.

Religion and culture

Most New Zealand Laotians are Theravada Buddhist. Community associations such as the Xao Lao Association in Wellington and the Wat Lao Association in Auckland have worked together to bring monks to New Zealand from Laos. Temples have been established in the main North Island cities, and provide a place for both meditation and social interaction.

Community associations play an important part in maintaining not only religious, but also cultural identity.

They have formed traditional dancing groups which perform during the Lunar New Year, and participate in events in the wider community, such as the Auckland International Cultural Festival. These social networks have played a significant role in helping immigrants cope by providing mutual support throughout resettlement.

How to cite this page:

Man Hau Liev and Rosa Chhun, 'Laotians - Community', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 May 2022)

Story by Man Hau Liev and Rosa Chhun, published 8 Feb 2005, updated 25 Mar 2015