Understanding the lived experiences and identities of young rural to urban migrant workers in Vietnam

Dang, Thi Thanh Thao (2016). Understanding the lived experiences and identities of young rural to urban migrant workers in Vietnam PhD Thesis, School of Social Science, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2016.664

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Author Dang, Thi Thanh Thao
Thesis Title Understanding the lived experiences and identities of young rural to urban migrant workers in Vietnam
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Science
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2016.664
Publication date 2016-08-29
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Paul Henman
Peter Westoby
Total pages 227
Language eng
Subjects 160303 Migration
169903 Studies of Asian Society
160810 Urban Sociology and Community Studies
Formatted abstract
Internal migration is the migration from one location to another within a country. Migration from a rural to an urban area is typically part of the urbanisation process. It is considered a livelihood strategy and poverty reduction solution for many people in medium- and low-income countries such as China, Indonesia, and Vietnam to name a few. In Vietnam, rural to urban migration has increased steadily over the past few decades. Greater numbers of young people in particular have migrated out of villages to find jobs in towns and cities. There are growing concerns about the social life and working conditions of such young migrant workers, and how these experiences shape their emerging identities during early adulthood. However, there is little in-depth empirical understanding about the lived experiences of young internal migrants.

This thesis contributes to our understanding of the lived social and work experiences of young Vietnamese people who migrate from the countryside to the city for work. These experiences are important in themselves as well as an important contextualisation of how young Vietnamese migrants form and reconstruct their identities in the new urban context. Given the purpose of the study is to provide an in-depth understanding of the experiences and identities of young migrants, this research employed a qualitative research approach using three data collection techniques namely, participant interviews, adapted photovoice and field observation. Photovoice is an innovative research method developed by Wang and Burries (1997), which involves the participants taking photos and then discussing them with the researcher. The study was conducted in the city of Hanoi, Vietnam, with twenty young migrant workers, aged 18 to 24 years, who had migrated to Hanoi for work one-to-four years earlier. Thematic analysis of the data was undertaken applying three concepts of habitus, field, and capital from Bourdieu’s theory of practice to analyse the data to enable an understanding of the themes of work and living experiences, and the identities of the participants.

The young people in this study left their villages for the city with a hope for better jobs, better incomes, and to build better lives and better futures; however, their lives also involved hardships and difficulties. Due to a lack of skills, qualifications, and work experience, most participants were employed in unskilled employment sectors that offered low pay and harsh conditions, and involved a lack of opportunity for career development and advancement. Social capital, in the form of social networks, was very important in connecting young people to their jobs, accommodation, and other opportunities in the city. In addition, their economic resources, together with social resources, played a prominent role in shaping the experiences and social and material outcomes of their migration. Work constituted an important part of life for all participants, as it not only gave them money to cover their living expenses, but, more importantly, it enabled them to become socially and economically independent. Most participants experienced an improvement in their economic capital, resulting in an enhancement of their social and economic independence, autonomy, and social standing. Their working and living experiences as migrant workers in the city influenced the ways in which the participants constructed and reconfigured their self-identities, both strategically and unconsciously. They developed their sense of self-independence, self-esteem, and belonging, and shaped new worldviews in the context of ‘trans-local living’ between their rural home and the city.

This thesis contributes to the scholarship on internal migration in developing countries through its in-depth and detailed insights into the lives of young migrants: their living and work experiences, and changing identities as perceived by themselves. These insights help to give an understanding of their needs and challenges. Methodologically, it contributes a new approach to inquiry into personal experiences by combining traditional, qualitative participant interview and observation with the photovoice method. The adapted photovoice method used in this study provided more depth and nuance to the communicated experiences of the participants, and also helped to develop a rapport and connection with the participants during and after fieldwork. In practical terms, the results from this study provide useful information for future intervention programs and projects to promote a meaningful life and decent jobs for young migrants in Vietnam and other developing countries of similar context.
Keyword youth migration
rural to urban migration

Document type: Thesis
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Created: Tue, 09 Aug 2016, 02:16:07 EST by Thi Dang on behalf of Learning and Research Services (UQ Library)