The new Face of Vietnamese emigration: A Comparison of Vietnamese International Students’ and Migrant Workers’ Mobilities

Anne-Cécile Delaisse, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of British Columbia; Tamsin Barber, Sociology, School of Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University


Migrants from Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, and the Philippines


While Vietnamese international students and temporary migrant workers (whose migration depends on a temporary contract for domestic or factory work) used to represent minor flows of emigration, their numbers have steeply increased in the past two decades and they have become the new face of Vietnamese emigration. Both groups fall under recent Vietnamese emigration policies and their migrations are patriotically framed as fostering Vietnam’s “development,” economic growth, and international competitiveness. However, their respective experiences of mobilities differ greatly based on intersecting identity markers and contextual factors. This presentation will draw from the literature about both Vietnamese international students and migrant workers and use the mobilities paradigm to critically compare the two groups’ migration experiences. Different aspects of their mobilities will be considered: (1) their physical mobilities and the conditions of their movements between Vietnam and other countries (2), the movement of different forms of capital associated with the movement of their bodies across borders, and (3) their social mobility resulting from their migration. While international students’ mobilities open a path to cosmopolitanism and upward social mobility, migrant workers’ mobilities are controlled and delimited in time and space and their outlooks remain local in Vietnam where their social mobility is limited. We will highlight the constraints but also the differential agency that the two groups exercise to navigate a post-colonial, capitalist, and neoliberal world through their mobilities.

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CCSEAS Conference 2021 |