Written by Mekong Institute

Labor migration is considered to be one way to reach the goal of poverty reduction and economic development by the Vietnamese Government. The Government has been trying to expand its overseas labor market. However, Vietnamese migration to the countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion has receives less attention from policymakers. Many Vietnamese migrants cross the border with countries in the region illegally for working purposes. This spontaneous migration process has implications for the socio-economic development of the origin as well as the destination country.  

This research was conducted in two poor communes in Thua Thien Hue province, Vietnam where the number of migrants travelling to Lao PDR for work is the highest in the country. Focusing on spontaneous migration to countries along the East West Economic Corridor (EWEC), the field survey was administered to 250 migrants and state officials. The study results show the economic potential and social challenges of spontaneous migration from Vietnam to other countries in the EWEC. Easy transportation to EWEC countries, fast and cheap official document processing at the border and the availability of jobs at the destination are identified as the potentials of labor migration. The study also explores the role of social networks in supporting this process. It considers the social links with the origin and destination country and between the migrants and those who stay behind. Social networks are seen as providing protection and security for migrants at their destination. However, migrant workers have to face numerous challenges during their migration, including difficulties in accessing social welfare in their destination country, being abused, exploited and becoming illegal workers due to the lack of legal documents. The research finds that spontaneous migration to EWEC countries is a survival strategy for the poor in Thua Thien Hue province. Therefore the study suggests that in
developing a national poverty reduction strategy policy makers and development aid agencies should pay more attention to the spontaneous migration of the poor.

Keywords: Economic potentials, Social challenges, Livelihoods, Social network

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