The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2012 | Markets, migration and reconfigurations of child care arrangements within the family: private solutions and public policies
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Markets, Migration and Reconfigurations of Child Care Arrangements within the Vietnamese Family: Private Solutions and Public Policies

Lead Supervisor: Professor Naila Kabeer (SOAS)

Co-Supervisor: Dr Jasmine Gideon (Birkbeck)

One of the most striking trends in international labour force data is the growing share of women workers in the labour market. This phenomenon has given rise to a growing debate about what this implies for 'the family'. Part of this debate is characterised by a discourse of 'the family in crisis' and is typified by anxieties about the implications of women working outside the home for the care, well-being and socialisation of children. A more positive interpretation is that 'families are in transition': that the rise of women's employment is leading to renegotiations of patriarchal family structures, a greater diversity of family forms and, perhaps, greater egalitarianism in the domestic division of unpaid work.

The changes in question may be over-stated. The reality is that many working mothers continue to seek to reconcile their unpaid care responsibilities and the search for paid work by taking up wage, or more often, self employment that can be carried out in or near their homes. However, the reconcilation between paid work and childcare responsibilities is much harder to achieve when women migrate in search of work and there is evidence of the growing involvement of women in migration flows. While young unmarried women tend to predominate when longer absences and distances are involved, women with children are much more likely to be involved in internal migration when the distances involved are shorter and cheaper.

It is this latter group that the propoposed research will be focusing on. We will be using migration as a lens through which to view the changing nature of household relations in an era when women are increasingly mobile in search of livelihood opportunities but relatively little is known about the implications for children or about how men are coping with this apparent challenge to their breadwinning roles. We propose to carry out detailed qualitative research on these questions in the context of urban Vietnam to take advantage of an on-going study on migration in HCM and Hanoi being carried out at the Fulbright School of Public Policy, Vietnam. The focus on Vietnam is appropriate, given that women predominate in internal migration flows, both short and long distance. The research will include both male and female migrants in the city as well as their families in their villages of origin. We will use a focus on child care arrangements in migrant households to address the larger question of whether families are in transition or in crisis. We are interested in a better understanding of what leads to specific configurations of care, the extent to which these embody changing models of gender roles in parenting and how these impact on the children concerned.

These are important policy questions. Women's growing integration into labour markets and their engagement in migration flows are part and parcel of the expansion of markets and the greater mobility of labour which is considered essential to economic growth, yet they continue to be left to manage their responsibility for unpaid domestic work, including child care, through private solutions. When these private solutions involve longer hours of work for women or child care arrangements that are detrimental to children, there is clearly a need for greater policy recognition of women's double burdens and interventions which might serve to promote a fairer redistribution of these burdens between men and women or, at the very least, to reduce the burden on working mothers through greater public responsibility.


The candidate is required to have an excellent academic track record with an undergraduate degree in the social sciences and a Masters degree in Development Studies, Economics, Anthropology or Sociology. Existing fieldwork experience and knowledge of the literature on gender, migration, labour markets and the household economy would be beneficial. Knowledge of Vietnamese would be an added strength.

The succesful candidate will be required to carry out 8-12 months of fieldwork in Vietnam. The candidate will participate in the doctoral training programmes at SOAS and Birkbeck, and will in addition benefit from research exchange and training opportunities within the London International Development Centre (LIDC) and the Bloomsbury Gender Network (BGN).

Key References

Chant, S. (2002) 'Families on the verge of nervous breakdown?' Journal of Development Studies 18 (2).

Development and Change Special Issues 'Seen, heard and counted: rethinking care in a development context' Vol 42(3). July 2011

Moore, H. (1994) 'Is there a crisis in the family?' UNRISD Occasional Paper No.3, UNRISD: Geneva

De Jong, G.F. (2000) 'Expectations, gender and norms in migration decision-making' Population Studies 55 (3)

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Lead Supervisor: Naila Kabeer,

Co-Supervisor: Jasmine Gideon,

Further information about PhDs at SOAS and the Department of Development is available from:

PhDs at SOAS:

Department of Development:

How to apply:

Applicants must complete the attached Bloomsbury College PhD Studentship application form.

The completed Studentship application form should be returned to:

Miss Alicia Sales

Scholarships Officer, Registry


Thornhaugh Street

London WC1H 0XG, UK

For any queries regarding the Studentship application form, please e-mail:

Applicants must also make an application for MPhil/PhD at SOAS:

The application for MPhil/PhD should be returned as soon as possible but no later than the Studentship's closing date as Studentship applicants must be accepted for the MPhil/PhD.

Closing date for applications is 29 February 2012