Planning residential areas for workers of Industrial Zones integrated with sustainable livelihoods and strengthening community relationships


Student Projects
24 March 2020

The study has given a new perspective on the development of residential areas for Vietnamese IZs workers with the emphasis on the role of multi-functional spaces in enhancing sustainable livelihoods and community development

By Lan Hương  

The massive development of industrial zones in Vietnam in recent years has led to a wave of large migrant workers from rural areas. There are about 2 million industrial migrant workers, most of whom are young workers, from 18 to 35.   About 20% of them live in concentrated dormitory areas and the rest live in the spontaneous rental houses of people in nearby villages. The Government has made great efforts in developing housing projects for workers through land tax exemption, preferential housing loans, reduced apartment area, resulting in reduced housing costs…. However, a problem is that in addition to the lack of qualified housing, these young migrant workers, whether in the formal or informal settlement, face social problems such as low income, insecure jobs, lack of spaces for physical, cultural and spiritual activities.

The author’s hypothesis is to develop a sustainable residential area for workers need to toward sustainable livelihoods and social integration. In other words, the goal of planning sustainable residential areas for low-income workers is to create spaces that support the development of human livelihood resources. With the characteristics of young workers, migrant workers need spaces to promote their own potential, including physical and mental (space for cultural activities, sports), knowledge-skills (spaces for learning, vocational training, places to participate in service activities, preparation for career transition), social relations (spaces for associations, groups). These can also be physical spaces (in the form of buildings, streets, yards…) or virtual spaces (web pages, forums, online instructions …).

The study has given a new perspective on the development of residential areas for low-income workers in Vietnam, when housing development is not only directed to how to increase the number of social housing supply but also aim at the development of human livelihood capitals and strengthening their social relationship.

What was done this year

  • Literature Review: Collecting information around the topic, including: Vietnamese legal documents related to the topic; Urban planning theories integrated with sustainable social development; Theories and frameworks of sustainable livelihoods and community development; Other relative researches.
  • Conducting a survey of workers in Industrial Zones: A survey was conducted with an in-depth questionnaire in the direction of the research. The goal is to evaluate the real situation of the livelihood resources of workers and their community relationships. Therefore, spaces solutions would be proposed to support and promote the increase of livelihood resources as well as strengthen their community relations.

The survey was conducted in 5 industrial parks with total 300 questionnaires, concentrated in Hanoi.

Preliminary results

In the year of 2019, the research aimed to 1) Assess the current capacity to ensure sustainable livelihoods among workers in industrial zones around Hanoi and then 2) Recommend an orientation for planning and building residential areas for workers towards sustainable livelihoods. Research methodology includes spatial research and sociological quantitative methods. This study used a theoretical framework for sustainable livelihoods developed by DFID, in which human livelihoods comprise human assets, natural assets, physical assets, social and political assets, and finally financial assets.

The survey was conducted in five industrial zones in Hanoi with 300 questionnaire papers and assessed workers’ housing conditions as well as their livelihoods. Among eight industrial zones in operation in Hanoi, five case studies were selected including North Thang Long, Sai Dong, Quang Minh, Noi Bai and Thach That. These industrial zones are quite large in terms of land area, noted for high level of occupancy and also for a large number of workers. A common living concept for workers in these industrial zones is rented housing provided in villages adjacent to industrial zones. A project-based housing area is found only in North Thang Long industrial zone. In order to understand the impact of housing concepts on the capacity of ensuring sustainable livelihoods for workers, the researcher handed out 100 questionnaires in North Thang Long, equally divided into two categories: project-based housing (50 questionnaires) and village-based rented housing (50 questionnaires). In the other four industrial zones, there is only one housing pattern (village-based rented houses), 50 questionnaires were sent to workers in each case study. The study is based on a structured questionnaire to collect information on the current situation of workers’ family livelihood sources.

The research results show that the SLI (Sustainable Livelihood Index) among workers in Hanoi is estimated at 0.31 – equal to “limited sustainability” (in comparison with UNDP guideline), since four key indicators (natural, physical, social and financial assets) all fail to reach “sustainable” level. Only human assets top the list, because most of the workers are young (89% of the 300 interviewees are from 18 to 30 years old), with a good health index. In comparison, among survey sites of North Thang Long IZ, workers living in Kim Chung residential area have a marginally better livelihood than those in village-based rented houses, in terms of three assets (human, physical and social). Although the residential area is now slowly degrading and short of several facilities, the workers living there still enjoy a better living quality. Among the industrial zones investigated, North Thang Long and Sai Dong are noted for higher human, physical and financial assets. These industrial zones are located near highly urbanised areas with well-established services and infrastructure systems. There are no significant differences among the other three zones (Quang Minh, Noi Bai and Thach That).

Obviously, any workers need urgent help in developing their livelihood capitals. In order to enhance human capital index, housing projects for workers must be systematically planned with a wide range of social services including education, health care, culture, sports and entertainment, so that workers can make full use of these services for their personal development, not only knowledge or skills, but also physical activities and spiritual life. These public-service areas should be regarded as the core of a living quarter for workers towards sustainable livelihoods. Space for communication needs to be created within all residential areas to enhance workers’ participation in social activities and local community programmes, thereby booting up their social capital. In view of financial capital, a housing project for workers may include free-trade areas as mixed-use areas or shopping streets which invite workers to do more for their income diversity.

In summary, planning policies and solutions aimed at developing housing projects for workers can have a major influence on sustainable livelihoods for them.