Trade liberalisation and intra-household poverty in Vietnam: a q2 social impact analysis
Following extensive economic and market reforms and more than a decade of negotiations, Vietnam became the latest country to accede to the World Trade Organization in November 2006. While it is expected that greater liberalisation will boost Vietnam’s economic growth and contribute to the country’s ongoing transition towards a market economy, there are concerns about potentially negative impacts on vulnerable sectors of the population, including remote rural populations, women and children. In order to explore the possible impacts of Vietnam’s trade liberalisation on children in poor communities, this paper examines key mediating factors that impact child welfare and the ways that trade liberalisation could affect these variables. It focuses on three key aspects of child well-being – child work (domestic and extra-household), educational attainment and health status. It applies a mixed methods approach: econometrics analysis using data from the first wave of the Young Lives Vietnam longitudinal survey on childhood poverty combined within in-depth qualitative analysis of two key agricultural commodity sectors, aquaculture and sugarcane, that are expected to be significantly impacted by Vietnam’s integration into the world economy. Our main quantitative findings point to significant differences in child well-being outcomes based on ethnicity, household poverty status and vulnerability to declining living standards, parental (especially maternal) education levels, children’s involvement in work activities, and access to public services. Our qualitative findings highlight the implications of caregivers’ shifting time inputs to productive and care economy work on child well-being, familial coping strategies in the context of economic shocks, the importance of social capital in mediating economic opportunities as well as differences in livelihood patterns among majority and minority ethnic groups. The paper concludes by discussing why mixed methods research can play an important role in focusing greater policy attention on the linkages between economic globalisation and children’s experiences of poverty.
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