BizLIVE -

Come studies on Asian women working in factories show that existing social and cultural norms structure family relationships and raise tensions, particularly in terms of gender differences, in the new social conditions brought about by industrialization.

Industrialization in the Mekong Delta Changes Family Structures
Photo Credit: Reuters
Effects of national and global factors are often beyond the control of most villagers in the Mekong Delta. This situation is shared in many Southeast Asian countries. Appell (1985), who investigates the experience of the highland minority community in Malaysian Borneo, illustrates the social and economic conditions that the residents have little control over. 
The Rungus peasants struggle to secure their present and future life, by providing schooling for children, for example. Appell states, “The Rungus believed in the 1960’s that their political and economic futures lay in the hands of others. They were deeply concerned that they would lose control over their land….”. This is a very similar situation to that the peasants of the Mekong Delta are experiencing.
One of the social changes that the rural residents of the Mekong Delta experience is industrialization of the area. Studies focusing on women in East and Southeast Asia during rapid industrialization are particularly informative in this regard. These studies, which examine the impacts of industrialization on relationships between family members, show varied conclusions. 
Focusing particularly on the workplace, some studies on Asian women working in factories show that existing social and cultural norms structure family relationships and raise tensions, particularly in terms of gender differences, in the new social conditions brought about by industrialization. 
For instance, in a case study of labour relations of women workers in urban Vietnam, Fahey (1995), discussing the place of working women in their family settings, shows that the existing norms are not much affected by industrialization, which results in women not being able to enter a new space, the workplace outside the family.22 Salaff (1995) also discusses the complex family relationships of working daughters in Hong Kong under industrialization. 
She finds that working outside the home offers daughters opportunities for higher income, but existing cultural norms require them to use their income for the family welfare. Although Salaff observes that daughters are gradually gaining independence from their parents, she stresses that their independence remains limited.
The effects of social and economic conditions on local systems are not confined to the family in the Mekong Delta. Other societies in Southeast Asia have also gone through economic changes and experienced their social effects, as shown in Grandstaff (1992)’s study in northern Thailand. 
There, economic uncertainty has led villagers to develop a twofold strategy of diversified agriculture and mobility in outside employment, and this strategy combines out-of-village employment with local resource utilization. Another work on Thailand by Piker (1968) illustrates how local social systems at the village level function in different ways under the influence of the outside world, national and international economic systems in particular. Traditional strategies no longer assure secure life of the villagers, as will be seen in later chapters.
The information was one part of the report “Living with uncertainty” by Setsuko Shibuya.

DIEP NGUYEN