Organized Panel Session
Southeast Asia is increasingly integrated into an allegedly vibrant regional economy: most countries have become important manufacturing hubs on the basis of FDI-led, export-oriented industrialization. However, employment generation in industry has remained far below the conventional threshold to indicate a transition towards industrialized economies. Contrary to previous experiences in East Asia, rural workers move to manufacturing industry for a few years, but as a sojourn, never truly abandoning their rural origins. As Southeast Asia continues to compete in terms of cheap labour costs, hard working conditions are associated with high level of precarity. Migration to industrial parks normally involves only younger workers, while the reproduction of labour force continues to occur “back in the village”. Workers may save enough to send remittances to their rural-based household but do not earn enough to settle with their families in more expensive industrial areas in which they work. Thus, industrial employment remains a transient phase in a wider survivalist strategy. The other side of the coin of this truncated industrial transition is the persistence of a large rural population, even while the contribution of agriculture to national economies is declining. A parallel truncated rural transition sees the persistence of survivalist agriculture, which can be understood by looking at the multiple livelihood strategies adopted by rural household. The panel will explore the ways in which the livelihood of workers and their households operate across space, bridging the gap between rural and industrial areas.