Climatic Precarity in Southeast Asia: Work, Risk and Exploitation under Climate Change
Wed 11:00-12:30 Room 3.02
- Laurie Parsons Royal Holloway, University of London
Save This EventAdd to Calendar
Hot Trends/Hot Work: How the Garment Industry Shapes Climate Vulnerability in Cambodia
Laurie Parsons Royal Holloway, University of London
Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is force reshaping the terms of the global workplace, reordering social relationships , reducing productivity , and worsening worker health . Yet in the drive towards industrial decarbonisation, the everyday struggles of workers in global supply chains battling worsening economic and physical conditions have received little attention, whilst worker voices have been marginalised. In climate change terminology, a focus on adaptation has taken a back seat to mitigation measures. Yet as the evidence of ongoing climate change impacts builds, this imbalance of focus is resulting in workers absorbing the pressures of climate change without support.
Migrating as a response to climate vulnerability: at what cost? A study of the conversion of farmers migrants from Central and Southern rural Vietnam into urban workers in Ho Chi Minh City
Clara Jullien Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Gwenn Pulliat Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
This paper investigates the link between vulnerability to climate change and urban precarities of low-skilled workers in Vietnam, through the lens of migration. Vietnam is concomitantly experiencing the mutation of its farming sector, and an increasing impact of climate change. The consequences of environmental changes, resulting both from climate change and local anthropogenic actions, such as repeated drought, disturbed flood patterns, extreme typhoons, erosion or salinization, affect the farming sector. In that context, rural farmers migrate to cities either short-term or long-term. Given climate change projections, the disruption of rural livelihoods is likely to worsen and climate vulnerability could be, among other factors, an essential long-term factor of migration. But if migration can be considered as an adaptation strategy to climate change, one can wonder at what cost. The paper is based on a long-term field research conducted from 2020 to 2022 in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as rural departure areas of migrants in Quang Ngai and Ben Tre provinces (respectively on the Central Coast and in the Mekong Delta). It includes 120 semi-structured interviews with migrant workers, as well as interviews with landlords of migrants in Ho Chi Minh City, farmers and fishermen in departure areas, and officials both in departure and destination areas. The results show that migrants had faced environmental shocks affecting their means of livelihood prior to their move, although they do not identify climate change as a direct factor in their decision to migrate. They found their incomes insufficient, and saw no hope to fulfill their aspirations to upward social mobility through agriculture. By moving, they entered the urban and peri-urban industrial and service sectors, turning spatial mobility into professional sectorial mobility, and they became less exposed to climate-related events (even though not completely safe given the exposure of urban areas). However, due to Ho Chi Minh City job market and housing market, rural low-skilled migrants share the urban workers’ situation: precarious employment conditions, informal sector, limited incomes, substandard housing in rental rooms (“nhà tr?”), and social isolation from “permanent residents”. In this sense, the current trends in Vietnam (urbanization and rural-urban migrations) result in a translation from environmental vulnerability to socio-economic precarity.
Towards a Just Transition in Southeast Asia – FES´ practice of building cross-boundary alliances with Trade Unions
Julia Behrens Freidrich Ebert Stiftung
The energy demand in Southeast Asia keeps growing. At the same time, climate change can be already felt in all Southeast Asian countries, with extreme weather events on the rise. Some countries in Southeast Asia are already considering a transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, in the electricity sector, the housing and mobility sector for their development path. Vietnam, for example, pledged a net zero target at the COP26 in Glasgow and even the coal-reliant Indonesia plans for a fossil-free future. Other countries, like Thailand, are still hesitant. But the inevitable shift towards renewable energy will affect the structure of economies that have been built on an industrialization through fossil fuels so far and with it, the region´s people. For the transition to be not only environmentally but also socially sustainable and just, workers’ rights need to be taken into consideration.
Vulnerability, protection, and social resilience in Southeast Asia: lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic
Marina Kaneti National University of Singapore
In late December 2021, the government of Bangladesh announced a long-awaited agreement with Malaysia for the recruitment of low-skilled migrant workers. Although it was three years in the making, the timing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) was hardly surprising: currently, severe labor shortages are threatening economic recovery efforts in a number of migrant-receiving countries, such as Malaysia. At the same time, migrant-sending countries, such as Bangladesh, are eager to secure remittance flows as part of efforts to restart their domestic economy. With over 107 million migrants from Asia living outside their country of origin, governments across the continent – from Dhaka and Kuala Lumpur, to Tokyo and Hanoi, Taipei and Jakarta – are hard at work, coining both new bilateral agreements and domestic policies on labor migration. What is surprising, however, is the content of agreements and policy proposals. The Dhaka – Kuala Lumpur MOU, for example, explicitly emphasizes the provision of migrants’ protection by spelling out terms on health insurance, accommodations, and travel obligations to be met by employers. Similarly, a Jakarta – Seoul agreement for Indonesian migrants working on fishing vessels in South Korea, focuses on questions of migrants’ rights and safe working conditions. Beyond bilateral agreements, a comparable focus on protections and rights is also notable in emerging domestic policies throughout 2021. For example, in the last quarter of 2021, Singapore announced new policy schemes allowing migrant workers in select industries the right to change employers as well as to remain in the country beyond their initial contract termination while searching for an alternative employer. In an unprecedented move, Japan went even further, creating a lever for migrant workers to pursue options for long-term residency.
Southeast Asia is a region experiencing rapid economic development and high levels of vulnerability to climate change. As such, it is increasingly recognised that ‘existing environmental inequalities in terms of exposure to ill-health and localised degradation are not reproduced or exacerbated, while aiming to alleviate a global environmental threat such as climate change’ (Newell and Mulvaney, 2013: 133). Viewed thus, ‘the world of work is intimately connected with the natural environment’ (ILO, 2019: 16), leading to growing interest in a precarity frame to observe their intersections. Not only does ‘climate change exacerbate precariousness, ‘disrupting all work and intensifying and extending individual risk’ (Newman and Humphrys, 2019: 1), it does so in ways that exacerbate risk for the poorest and most precarious workers. Yet despite this, industrial sustainability thinking has generally had little to say about workers. This panel directly addresses this theory-policy-practice gap by advancing a ‘climate precarity’ frame (Natarajan et al., 2020) to highlight how climate change is coproduced by industrial working conditions and environmental risk. In doing so, we centre workers’ participation in planning and decision-making as key to supporting both adaptation and mitigation policy. Focusing on a range of industries, from agriculture to the garment sector, we will evidence how labour precarities – rapid turnover, high productivity, low security manufacturing associated with workplace precarity, stress, and violence (Gibbs, 2019) – are linked also to vulnerability to climate change impacts, including excessive workplace heat, urban and peri-urban disasters such as floods, and economic precarities linked to the failure of family farms.