Nguyen, Bich Thuan
Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS)
Individual Project :

A Labour Analysis of Poverty and Vulnerability: Unconventional Categories and Possible Lines of Enquiry

The research will focus on two main lines of enquiry following non-conventional analytical categories. Overall such lines of enquiry are aimed at detailing empirically and grasping theoretically what kind of regime of industrial labour is being created in Vietnam, especially: how migrant workers are made temporary and highly vulnerable; what impedes them to settle down in the city/industrial areas, making them circulatory and unstable; how work in industry systematically links with the creation in the country of (multidimensional) poverty and vulnerabilities. The first line of enquire relates to what the international literature defines as the in-fact informalization of formal jobs. It is devoted to understand how (migrant) workers are made temporary and vulnerable at the factory, given contracts, wages, the way their workloads are organized etc. This part of the research will also include some research related to how workers are recruited by enterprises; how and why they choose their work destination; if the choice is influenced by pre-existing social networks, how this affects life at work. The second one relates to what the international literature defines as ‘systems of migrant labour’. This line of enquiry is devoted to understand how workers are made even more vulnerable and by definition transient due to specific institutional arrangements such as the hokhau (household registration) system and due to spatial arrangements such as the workers’ dormitories. As for these latter, attention is paid also to possible forms of social control of workers’ lives at dormitories. Also, this line of enquiry is devoted to understand: i) How (if) workers remain dependent on the countryside, although they also remit money to support their families; ii) According to which logic (if any) at a certain point they are expelled from industry; iii) What they do after having worked in industry (back to the countryside? flow into the properly said informal sector?). The research will be based on fieldworks in several provinces in the North of Vietnam, which are experiencing a very rapid industrialization, especially under the circumstance of shift of investment from China to ASEAN countries, including Vietnam.