The issue of rural-to-urban migrant workers has been widely debated over the past years. On 30th and 31st October 2014, the international workshop on “Labour migration from rural to urban areas in greater Mekong sub-region countries” organised by the Hue University of Sciences (HUS) and Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Southeast Asia (RLS SEA) took place in Hue city in order to discuss this burning issue.
To start the first session, Dr. Le Kim Lan, the coordinator of the cooperation project between HUS and RLS SEA, briefly introduced the joint project, its activities and achievements that have been realized by this project in the field of migration research. In the second part of her presentation, talking about the migration status in Vietnam generally, and in Central Vietnam particularly, she named some disadvantages and difficulties of migrant workers as well as urged for changes in the policy making process.
PhD student Nguyen Thi My Van of HUS, presented the paper “Impact of migrant workers on social-economic development in the rural area”. Her research, which took place in the four provinces of Quang Tri, Thua Thien Hue, Ho Chi Minh City and Savannakhet (Laos), showed that migrant workers had certain impacts on the socio-economic development of the places of origin and destination, both in positive (contribution to increased income for households and reduction of poverty at local level, improved skills) and negative aspects (shortage of local labour force). She concluded by pointing out that migrant workers do not have access to livelihood capital commensurate with their contributions, and that by this additional pressures are put on the already-overload health, education and social welfare system.
Prof. Nguyen Thi Dinh then presented the paper “Fulfilment of rights of migrant workers in FDI enterprises”. She addressed the actual implementation of labour rights for migrant workers and gave some recommendations in order to create a comprehensive legal framework ensuring workers’ rights. According to her, there is a need to pay more attention to the fulfilment of labour rights for migrant labourers working in industrial and export processing zones along.
Continuing the first session, Assoc. Prof. Buadam Sengkhamkhautlavong, Director of Asia Research Center, National University of Laos (NUOL), briefly introduced his co-research with Dr. Bualine Rousavanh from the Vientiane Institute of Technology about “The migrant workers from rural to urban areas in Laos PDR”. He explained how poverty and unemployment are push factors for rural youth’s migration, how they adapt to the new social and economic context and become a factor of change in the rural community. He also addressed the problem of lacking labor force in the rural agricultural sector that threatens the food production in general.
Beginning the second session, Prof. Nguyen Dinh Cu and Assoc. Prof. Pham Dai Dong from Hanoi National University of Economics gave a speech nf “Migrant workers from rural to urban areas: some considerations” with recommendations of several “non-traditional” analyses and assessment as well as suggestions for a change in thoughts and policies about the rural-urban migration.
Dr. Kanchana Tangchonlatip from the Institute for Population and Social Research, Mahidol University, Thailand followed with the speech on “Rural–urban migration and occupational sex-segregation in Thai urban areas”. She not only described that the internal migration trend in Thailand is declining but also argued that urban to rural migration becomes the predominant stream even though this trends are fluctuating due to the returns of migrants from urban to rural areas – their origin residences to assist household agricultural activities. Her statements were illustrated with concrete statistics.
Dr. Ha Kien Nghi, co-speaker of the Federation for Intercultural Welfare, Empowerment and Diversity from Germany introduced “The structure of German Migration policy”. He briefed the participants on the periods of German migrant policies, analysed the pull and push factors and the impact of immigration on society.
Mr. Navuth Ya, Executive Director of CARAM Cambodia, addressed “How to better manage Labour migration in Cambodia?”. He admitted that some Vietnamese women and girls have been trafficked into Cambodia for commercial sex. He described the main cause oflabour migration in Cambodia by analysing push factors (no secure job or income in Cambodia, debt bondage, lack of agricultural land for farming, lack of market for agricultural product sale) and pull factors (more work opportunities and high wages in destination countries for instance Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea etc.). He also pointed out that young Cambodians are attracted to the way of urban living in receiving countries and enjoy the way of materialism, they even accept 3Ds jobs in receiving countries (3Ds: Difficult, Dirty and Dangerous) since citizens are not interested in those kinds of low-paid and unskilled jobs.
The second day of the workshop started with a presentation of Assoc. Prof. Bui Thi Tan and PhD Student Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen of HUS about “Gender perspective in rural-to-urban Migrant workers in Central Vietnam”. They stressed that there is an increasing trend in female migrant labourers from Central Vietnam, especially in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) enterprises. The main factor that leads to this situation is poverty, since most women leave their hometown with a dream of increasing their living standard. These women often have little choice in job selection; they tend to accept legitimate and low-paid jobs.
The organisers then presented one movie of their research about Vietnamese migrants in the province of Savannakhet, Laos PDR by investigating one typical example of a female migrant worker.
After the short movie, Pansy Tun Thein, Executive Director of the Local Resource Centre (LRC) Myanmar, made an interesting, in-depth introduction of “Migration and Gender Dimensions in Myanmar”. She emphasized that internal and cross-border migrations have been ongoing in Myanmar for decades. Many efforts have been done by the Government and related stakeholders to prevent human trafficking associated with migration. Despite of all these efforts, the problems continue to be a burning issue, she also urged for more care to build an effective reintegration program for returnees.
Dr. Nguyen Thi Hong Xoan, University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh city talked about “Economic Adjustment and Living Conditions of Young Migrants from Rural Areas to Ho Chi Minh City”. She argued that young migrants in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) can find jobs easily but most of it are low paid and informal jobs. There are also a lot of risks in health and working conditions as most of them do not sign labour contracts and hence are vulnerable to exploitation. As a consequence, working hard, living in poor status accommodation and eating unhealthy food are common circumstances which these young migrants must endure.
Finishing the workshop, Dr. Le Dang Bao Chau presented the paper “Social networks of child migration workers from rural to urban areas” with suggestion of who is the person connecting between the children at countryside (and their parents) and the unofficial labour market in urban areas.
A lot of information and experiences have been discussed and learnt through one and a half days of the workshop. It is hoped that the joint agreement of the workshop will reach the ASEAN Chair in Myanmar this year.