Research Achievements

Environment and Human Security

Cultivating Talented Individuals:Support Scheme:Investigative Research Assistance (for student)

Thanh Mai LE / Investigation Area: Hanoi, Vietnam


Destination (Name of city and country)

Hanoi, Vietnam

Research objectives

(1) to attend and make presentation at the Third International Conference on Vietnamese Studies from 4th to 7th December, 2008
(2) to meet, making interviews, and having briefings with senior officials and representatives from governmental organizations, and international and non-governmental organizations to understand their policies and strategies to combat child labour in general and child domestic work in particular in Vietnam and other Asian developing countries
(3) to collect primary and secondary data related to child domestic work; seeking to know the living and working conditions, the need and aspirations of child domestic workers (CDWs), to understand the reasons why these children work as child domestics with a view to finding the most effective and relevant approach to address the issue of child domestic labour

Research project

Title: Competing Approaches to Child Domestic Work in Asian Developing Countries: Evidence from the Case Study in Vietnam

Overall goal: Child labour is a sensitive subject and numbers regarding its magnitude play an important role in global policy-making and advocacy efforts. It is estimated that in 2004 there were about 218 million children age 5-14 who were at work in an economic activity in the world. Out of these, with 127.3 million in total, the Asia Pacific region harbours the largest number of child workers in this particular age group. Employing a person to undertake domestic household chores is an integral part of Asian tradition. Due to economic and social changes as well as cultural factors, it is widespread to find young children working as CDWs undertaking domestic household chores including cooking and washing, and polishing for other people’s family in many Asian developing countries. Although the circumstances of exploitation or even child servitude of a large number of these CDWs have recently been challenged by different approaches, the research project by looking at competing schools of thought to combat child domestic work and child labour generally aims to justify the significance of the multi-faceted approach ? removal of the worst form of child domestic labour and improvement of the working conditions of child domestic work ? through the case study of the working and living conditions of child domestics in Vietnam. I believe that the adoption of this comprehensive approach to deal with child domestic labour would fit in well with the fundamental principles enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and contribute to the regional efforts to combat child labour.


From 4th to 7th of December, I attended the Third International Conference on Vietnamese Studies in which I presented my research paper. This is the biggest international conference on Vietnam development and integration held every five years. It attracted all prestigious Vietnamese professors and scholars, and a large number of international professors having their research interest in Vietnam. The Conference comprises 18 panels covering a variety of subjects. My paper was presented in Panel 6 on Vietnamese Society, where I was deeply impressed by such presentations as An Overview of the Vietnamese Society in the Process of Renovation for Development and International Integration by Professor Pham Xuan Nam, Female Housemaid Migrants from Mekong Delta in Hochiminh City by Dr. Nguyen Thi Hoa, and Vietnamese Masculinity and Gender Relations by Professor Jack D.Harris and Nguyen Khanh Linh, Ph.D. Candidate. This has also offered me a very good opportunity to present my research to and join the academic societies to exchange ideas and knowledge with other researchers of the same interest. Indeed, all the valuable and constructive comments and observations received at my presentation on Competing Approaches to Child Domestic Work in Asian Developing Countries: Evidence from the Case Study in Vietnam have contributed to directing my future research, which requires me to take into account the cultural differences among countries to arrive at the best possible approach to combat child domestic labour based on the fundamental principles underpinning the UNCRC.

Between 8th December, 2008 and 27th January, 2009 I attempted to fulfill the two remaining significant goals of my research trip. I, first, met with Mr. Nguyen Hai Huu, Head of the Child Care and Child Protection Department, Ministry of Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs, who generously gave me a sixty-minute briefing on Vietnamese policy towards CDWs. When being asked about the solutions to combat child domestic labour, he believed that this type of child labour would be removed together with the eradication of poverty and the further development of the country, and thus no governmental intervention was needed, which goes against my hypothesis for the research. Next, I contacted Mr. Vu Duy Tuan, a senior official of the International Organisations Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs through telephone, and he refused to meet with me due to his urgent long-term business trip to Thailand. However, he emailed me the Third and Forth Periodical Country Report on Vietnam's Implementation of the UNCRC on the Rights of the Child in the Period 2002-2007, which I believe will be of great help to my research. Later, I had briefings and interviews with senior officers including Ms. Nguyen Mai Oanh, Child Labour Specialist Officer, International Labour Organisations; a Ms. Nguyen Thi Ha, Child Protection Specialist Officer, United Nations Children's Fund; and Mr. Tran Ban Hung, Head of the Protection Unit, the International Save the Children Alliance (SC). Through these meetings, I learned that they have recently made cooperation to work out and materialise a comprehensive child protection programme in Vietnam from 2006 to 2010 with an effective child protection system as they opined that with this system coming into force, they could grant protection to a large number of children including children who are subject to abuse, violence or exploitation; children who are vulnerable to these abuses, and all other children. Also, I have been provided with a number of informative documents, research and reports by these organizations, most important of which is the Research on CDWs in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2005 co-edited by Save the Children Sweden, and Vietnam Institute of Family and Gender Studies (IFGS). Before the fieldwork, I had foreseen the difficulties in collecting the primary data from the field due to the sensitive issue of children working as domestic servants in Vietnam. Given the country's child labour related legal framework and the Vietnamese government's commitment to combat child labour, having CDWs identified in the responsible areas might not position the local authorities as well as the employers with good image. So they are very reluctant to allow researchers to have access to child domestics, let alone have an interview with them. As a consequence, with the valuable introduction and kind support from Professor Yasushi Katsuma and SC-Japan, I have been able to build up a close relation with SC-Vietnam, and thus having access to the original data collected for their above-mentioned research on CDWs in Hanoi in 2005. In fact, I have read their paper, and recognised that although they have the advantage of collecting a large amount of first-hand data on child domestic labour, they failed to either produce a thorough analysis of the working and living conditions of the child domestics, or put forth a relevant approach to address the issue for the best interest of these children. I had a talk on the research with Ms. Pham Thi Hue from IFGS, co-author of the book, and was very surprised to hear that according to her, having access to education for these children is not a welcomed and workable solution. So, I hope that my future research will employ both quantitative and qualitative methodological frameworks, re-analysing this original data to better understand the reasons for CDWs in Vietnam to work, to raise the awareness of the working and living conditions, the needs and aspirations of child domestics in the country, and attempt to reveal the significance of strengthening the multi-faceted approach to deal with the issue in Vietnam and other Asian developing countries as it is more effective than other strands in protecting and promoting the rights of the child. All of this will contribute to identifying directions for future action and cooperation at the regional level to address child domestic labour particularly and child labour generally in Asia.

person in charge of project promotion