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Concept Note “Gender and Migration ” 2013 Assessing Labor Export Policies - Sharing Vietnamese and international experiences

on rights-based approaches and gendered dimensions Rationale Introduction Like other countries in Southeast Asia, Vietnam belongs to the migrant sending nations. The Vietnamese government started its labor export (xuat khau lao dong) policy in the 1980s under the framework of cooperation within the former socialist bloc. Receiving countries of Vietnamese labor migrants were the former Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries such as the former German Democratic Republic, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. In the 1990s Vietnamese labor export experienced a steady growth with new “markets” being assessed such as Malaysia, Taiwan, Republic of Korea (RoK), Japan, the Middle East, Libya but also the small neighboring PDR Laos. Nowadays, about 4.5 million Vietnameseincluding over 400,000 guest workers are living, working and studying in 103 countries and territories across the world, of which over 80% are placed in developed nations. The State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese Affairs (SCOVA) at the beginning of 2013 estimated that overseas remittances to the country could have reached $10 billion in 2012 (up by 10% compared to 2011) - reflecting the highest figure over the last 4 years.While the remittances sent to Vietnam by its workers working in Japan, the RoK, Malaysia, Taiwan have increased remarkably;remittances from Europe and the US have gone down. In 2012, some 42-43% of the country’s total remittances worth $4.1 billion came to Ho Chi Minh City, of which 70% went into production and business, 23% into real estate and 6% to relatives.About 500,000 overseas Vietnamese (OV) return home annually to seek opportunities to invest and run businesses.Statistically, over 3,500 firms were established by or received capital from OV with registered capital totaling 8.4 billion. According to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MoLISA) ,Vietnam expects to send about 90,000 laborers to work abroad,including the RoK, Malaysia, Russia and Taiwan in 2013. This would mean an increase of 10,000 exported laborers compared with the 2012 figure of 80,000. The proportion of women migrants has been gradually increasing over the past decade from 28.8% of documented migrant workers in 2000 to an average of 30 % in the past five years. In 2011, 36% of workers going overseas were women, compared with only 10 - 15 per cent throughout 1992 -1996.


The labor migration discourse Vietnam generally sees labor export as an important part of its development strategy. Overseas Vietnamese are recognized for making significant contributions to poverty reduction, economic growth and for bringing home favorable and needed skills that help to foster the local economic development. Furthermore, sending laborers abroad is seen as a solution to tackle the local un- and underemployment problem of the country. This positively connoted discourse, also known as migration-development nexus, is coupled with a politically popular discourse on migration management. Vietnam, seeing labor export as a crucial factor for its development, is engaged in bi-lateral agreements with receiving countries in order to control the migration flow in terms of numbers but also in terms of recruitment processes. The term “labor export” implicates a state-controlled system of human resources being regarded as an “export item”. Locally, the recruitment of labor migrants runs through different channels such asthrough Vietnamese recruitment agencies or enterprises which base their activities on official licenses to provide laborers following contracts with employers abroad; through local companies that directly contract or invest overseas; or through individual connections between the workers and foreign employers. Especially this latter group is of great concern to the official labor export discourse. Migrants are divided into so called “contracted” or “legal” migrants on the one hand and so called “free” or “irregular” migrants on the other hand. Bi-lateral migration management agreements are being dilated by multilateral state and/or international institution centered global governance measures facilitating the implementation of the management paradigm at a larger scope. This paradigm puts its end at controlling global migration flows and employment opportunities for migrant workers. The need for a rights-based approach Cases of Vietnamese labor migrants in the past years have shown that despite the positively connoted migration-development nexus at the governmental level and efforts of the government to manage and control out-migration there were and still are severe difficulties migrants found themselves being caught in. The major problem is the protection of the rights of migrant workers when they are abroad. This goes along with a clear lack of proper information on positive and negative sides of labor migration that must be provided to the migrants at their place of origin before they leave, a lack of information about the destination as well as a lack of required vocational and language skills, shady practices (up to trafficking) of recruiters, a high vulnerability of being illegalized at the destination country in cases of dismissal or early contract termination as well as other factors that put migrants into highly marginalized positions. International migrant worker’s rights groups but also the ILO have brought in strong arguments for a third dimension in

the discourse on migration, the need for a rights-based approach that puts human rights at the center of migration governance. By doing so they challenge the existing neo-liberal framework of migration governance that so far put a certain understanding of development, namely economic development and the control of human mobility at its center. Furthermore, a need for a stronger involvement of migrant workers’ movements as well as civil society is argued for in terms of a participatory and democratic understanding of global governance. Although with programs, such as for example the ILO supported project “Tripartite Action to Protect Migrants Workers from Labour Exploitation” (TRIANGLE project) Vietnam has joint the efforts to protect the rights of labor migrants through a multi-level approach by involving the local governments, socio-political and nongovernmental organizations as well as migrants themselves; there is still a need to initiate a discourse amongst representatives of migrant workers, civil society and socio-political organizations (including the trade union), decision-makers, and researchers about actions to be taken to generate a rights-based approach as a main component of labor exportpolicies. Considering the gendered dimensions Besides the urgency of putting human rights at the center of the migration governance discourse, the feminization of migration during the past years has shown a need for a gender-specific approach to be embedded too.As noted already the number of women involving in labor migration has significantly increased. It is believed that,besides the vulnerability of women of being trafficked into the sex industry or forced relationships, migration for marriage from an economic perspective became an increasing factor in Vietnam, often being at the edge of trafficking cases. Looking at Southeast Asia one can see that from a gendered perspective on labor men are for example mostly employed in the plantation or construction sector but also manufacturing sector while women are mainly working in the social reproduction (for example domestic or care work) or in the manufacturing sector that requires specifically “female attributes” such as “nimble fingers”. In terms of labor export the global development, including its changes in labor market structures, has an influence on male and female migrants going abroad. Labor export also affects men and women differently. So far, both points have not been assessed in a satisfying manner nor have labor export policies in Vietnam shown a gender-specific reflection. Additionally, the impacts for the families and communities where migrant workers have their origin have a highly gendered dimension which has to be considered in labor migration policies as well. A gender-specific analysis would bring up wider social aspects that have an impact on women and men’s roles in migration, on their respective access to for example social services, information about their rights, resources etc. Considering the positive social aspect of migration that it could bring along more equality amongst mem3

bers of society has to include the dimensions of class, race and gender. On the other hand, an in-depth look at how the access to information and rights influences the living conditions, well-being and dignity of individual migrants, could bring to the surface better understanding on gender-based social inequality. Objective / Target Groups The workshopbrings together Vietnamese and international participants from decisionmaking agencies, international organization, research institutions and universities, sociopolitical organizations (including trade unions and labor associations, mass organizations etc.) nongovernmental organizations as well as migrants themselves in order to discuss practices of labor export, share good practices and lessons learnt as well as open a discourse on widening the recent paradigm by injecting the rights-based approach and gendered dimension into existing practices and analyses. The workshop contributes to the bridge project “Gender and Migration” which is jointly conducted by the RLS Asia together with the Institute for Societal Research (IFG) of RLS Berlin. The bridge project connects activities of the RLS Asia Desk, the offices in Hanoi, Beijing, Delhi and the IFG related to migration and adds the emphasis on a gender-specific analysis of the topic as an integral part of a critical analysis of capitalism and the neo-liberal development agenda. Furthermore, the project wishes to raise awareness about discourses let in the global south and by doing so widen receptions of political and academic discourses in the global north. Activities - A 1.5-dayworkshop to be organized by the University of Social Sciences and Humanities Ho Chi Minh City and RLS Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City - A book publication in Vietnamese language of the papers presented at the 2012 international workshop and “Gender and Migration – An Asian Dimension” Timeframe - Proposed dates for the workshop are 26 – 30 August, 2013 (highly recommended). - The book publication shall preferably be finalized before the workshop in order to present to book during the event. Contents for the Agenda 1. Theoretical framework


a. Theoretical framework of labor migration,general Introduction on theories and practices b. Overview of labor migration practices in general and in Vietnam 2. Assessing Vietnamese Labor Export from a right-based and gendered approach – Facts and Outlooks a. Academic analysis b. Perspectives from decision-makers (MoLISA, DoLISA or other related agencies) c. Practical experiences (activities of local governments, socio-political and non-governmental organizations) d. Perspective from a former exported laborer: e. g. lack of information, paying high initial costs, equaling around one year of salary => break contract to work for better paid places but illegally (Case: recently South Korea stops to receive Vietnam’s exported laborers). 3. International practices and discussions of a right-based and gendered migration a. International conventions, migration governance, labor export discourses (ILO) b. International civil society activism and migrants movements addressing the global and intergovernmental discourse c. Local case studies of policies and actions (e. g. Hong Kong or Malaysia and receiving countries and Philippines or Indonesia as sending countries) 4. Linking International and Vietnamese discourses a. Facilitated discussion Division of tasks Task Develop Concept Note Comment on Concept Note, fix the date Finalize Concept Note Propose speakers and participants Draft budget for USSH expenditures Approve Budget Sign PA Obtain workshop and publication permission Edit and print publication Obtain visa for int’l participants



Deadline 18.02.2013 15.03.2013 30.03.2013 30.03.2013 15.03.2013 30.03.2013 15.04.2013 15.05.2013 03.06.2013 Depends on workshop date

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Book workshop venue Book hotel rooms for non-resident participants Book flight tickets for non-resident participants Pick-up participants from the airport Contracts with and payment of speakers (Vietnamese and int’l) Workshop logistics, clarify tasks

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