Migrant Workers’ Working and Living Conditions in Vietnamese industrial parks
Michela Cerimele is researching the main socio-economic and institutional factors that underpin the integration of Vietnamese migrant workers into the country’s industrial parks and that help to determine the characteristics of wages and workers’ working and living conditions in specific sectors such as electronics. She has now closed a first round of qualitative fieldwork research at the dormitories of migrant workers employed at Thang Long Industrial Park, Hanoi. Throughout this research she detailed how a series of devices, both within and outside the factory, including a specific spatial engineering, are parts of a coherent whole that keeps wages systematically low and that makes this workforce structurally vulnerable and transient.
Challenging the prevailing neoliberal discourse on the ‘labour-poverty nexus’ in Vietnam is the second area of concentration of Michela’s work. Light is shed on some major flaws in the conventional understanding of poverty as inclusion within (neoliberal) market mechanisms, and of ‘formal’ industrial work – to be spurred mainly through foreign investment – as a major driver of the elimination of poverty. What is normally labelled inclusion (within market mechanisms) actually produces socio-economic exclusion, i.e. vulnerability, poverty, marginalization, in-fact ‘informality’, even in those ‘formal’, highly globalized sectors of the economy, where the better-off workers are supposedly found.