Understanding the urban livelihoods and wellbeing of migrant women working in garment factories in Vientiane, Laos
Rural-urban migrants are the major contributions to the labour force that drives the manufacturing sector in Laos. Migrants, particularly young women, contribute abundant cheap labour to garment industries. Despite their hard work and contribution, the living and working conditions for migrants are often overlooked. This thesis explores the migration, livelihoods and wellbeing of migrant women working in the garment factories in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. This thesis focuses particularly on how working in the factories and living in the city affects the wellbeing of women. The field research was conducted in three garment factories in Vientiane where most garment factories are located. The data was obtained mainly from ten individual interviews and four focus group sessions with women workers. Additionally, ten officials from public and private sector were interviewed to bring additional perspectives into this research. The theoretical framework of the study derives from the sustainable livelihood framework to explore the main aspects of women’s livelihoods. Also, Marxist, radical and post-structural feminist theories are incorporated into the framework to analyse the issues facing migrant women. This research pays attention to how women are oppressed as a subordinated class and gender, as well as to how women individually and collectively use their agency to improve their conditions. This thesis claims that working in the factory and living in the city have both positive and negative consequences for women workers. It has increased the human, social and financial capital of women workers. However, women were oppressed in many forms by their capitalist employers as well as by men inside and outside the factory. However, although women workers experience exploitation and oppression, they are able to construct their new identities and develop strategies to cope in their everyday lives.