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Social Science Speaks: Globalizing Inequality with Professor Mai Nguyen
September 13, 2019 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Globalizing Inequality: Housing, Air, and Water Quality in Industrial Zones in Hanoi, Vietnam
Odum Institute 95th Anniversary Speaker Series | Professor Mai Nguyen
In honor of our 95th anniversary, the Odum Institute is organizing a speaker series to highlight the interdisciplinary impacts of social science research. As part of this series, Professor Mai Nguyen of the UNC-CH Department of City and Regional Planning will lead a talk on her research in affordable housing and environmental quality in Vietnam, followed by a Q&A session. Refreshments will be provided.
About Dr. Nguyen:
Mai Nguyen is an Associate Professor of City & Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Board Chair of the Urban Affairs Association. She is also the director of the New Faculty Program for the College of Arts & Sciences, as well as the director of the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program, a program to train promising young scholars from underrepresented backgrounds to become successful academics.
Since 1986, Vietnam opened its door to the world by transforming its economy from one that was centrally planned to a market-based economic system. A priority with the national economic reform movement, known as Doi Moi, included efforts to connect Vietnam to the worldwide production chain, thereby encouraging more global investment in the country. These reforms have led to rapid economic growth and urbanization, positioning Vietnam as the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia. Booming industrial parks that house global firms, such as Samsung, the Gap, and WestElm, are evidence of the foreign investment that is rapidly changing the landscape of Vietnam’s urban areas. As of September 2016, roughly 325 industrial zones existed throughout the country, employing about three million workers. Located on the fringes of large metropolitan areas, such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, there are locational firm advantages, such as proximity to economic hubs, infrastructure, and transportation networks.
However, for workers in the industrial parks, finding quality housing has been challenging and living on the fringes of a mega-metropolis can be isolating. About three-quarter of the workers in these industrial parks are rural migrants who left their hometown to work and live in industrial park areas. In the initial phases of the industrial park development, there was an extreme undersupply of housing. The Vietnamese government and private firms have only provided about 7-10% of migrant workers with housing. The remainder of workers seek housing in the rapidly expanding informal housing sector built by local villagers and is largely unregulated. Due to the rapid pace of growth in informal sector housing, very little is known about the character and quality of this housing and the impacts on workers’ quality of life.
This presentation discusses the relationship between housing, air, and water quality for workers in the five of the largest industrial parks in the Hanoi, Vietnam metropolitan area. Moreover, does housing, air, and water quality contribute to negative mental and physical health outcomes? This is the first study of informal housing in industrial zones in Vietnam and will provide the national government with recommendations on how to improve the quality of living conditions for workers in industrial zones.