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Seminar Announcing Study Findings about: “Social and Economic Impacts of WTO Integration on Vietnamese Rural Women” (Aug 16, 2011)

Vietnam's integration into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2007 has increased both opportunities and challenges for women and the mission of gender equality. Trading liberalization policies have influenced men and women in different ways due to their different accessibilities and control of social and economic resources. Restructuring labour market after joining WTO may brings women more job opportunities, but it may make more of them become unemployed. Economic integration can either promote or limit activities of gender equality in family, community and working place.

To assess changes in life of rural women when Vietnam joins WTO, Institute of Labour Science and Social Affairs, in cooperation with United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) conducted the study on "Social and economic impacts of WTO integration on Vietnamese rural women" in Hai Duong and Dong Thap in the period from August 2008 to August 2009.

The Seminar announcing the study findings was held on 20th October 2009 in Hanoi, with the sponsorship of Australian International Development.

Participants at the seminar included Mr. Nguyen Trong Dam - Deputy Minister of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs, Mr. Jean Marc Olive - Acting United Nations permanent coordinator in Vietnam, Mr. Allaster Cox - Australian Ambassador to Vietnam and representatives from institutions, ministries, social and political organizations, non-government organizations working in the fields of women and gender equality.

Report on the study findings consists of 4 sections: Study background; Local and international studies on the impacts on WTO on women; Significant findings from the study; and Recommendations. Qualitative research method was used to study the impacts of WTO integration on rural women. Stories of 250 women participating in the study illustrated their optimism about their situations - their lives, family situations, job prospects, hopes and problems.

In general, the study believed that rural women have enjoyed new significant opportunities in the labour market related to WTO integration, especially jobs requiring a lots of labour without special skills, in small trading businesses and service sector. This meets the actual gender demand of women in regard to improvement of their opportunities and income, especially in comparison to agricultural jobs. However, quality of jobs is still low, working condition is poor and unstable. These things can hardly improve the status of women or meet their strategic gender need. Some groups of women are especially vulnerable to negative impacts of trading liberalization and are prone to be in poverty. Migrant women, especially young women, are often lack of social knowledge and under extreme abuse. In family, some improvements in labour allocation and increasing women's role of creating daily income have give more importance to their voice in family decisions. However, dual role with the duties of producing and reproducing has made women lack of time and overwork.

Although this study is merely a qualitative study in two specific areas, not representing the whole country and impossible to provide a causal relationship to measure the impacts of WTO integration, it has provided important findings and information about Vietnamese rural women in the changing social and economic context. Participants were all in agreement that there should be more intensive and extensive studies to assess the impacts of WTO integration on rural women in particular and Vietnamese women in general properly.

Full version of the report of this study is available at the library of the Institute for Family and Gender Studies.

Le Thi Hong Hai

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