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Analyses, Perspectives and Opinions

RLS Southeast Asia regularly publishes political analyses and working papers on current and relevant topics from the Mekong Region. Together with our partners, we shed light on different opinions and introduce perspectives on pressing social and ecological questions and challenges. The publications are categorized according to topics and countries and can be selected using the links below.

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 Labour

On the 1st of August 2020, the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) entered into force since its ratification by the European Commission. The act signifies another step of Vietnam not only into the global market economy, but also into the international labour regime and standards since its historic 1986 ‘Renovation’ reforms that opened the country. With upcoming initiatives for economic rebound in a post-pandemic Europe and Vietnam, an examination of existing trade union landscape in Vietnam and effects of the new Labour Code, entered into force since 1st of January 2021, is in order.

 

From East Germany to West Germany and Vietnam to world trade—both represent assimilations of socialist states to global capitalism with widespread consequences at around the same time. The relevance goes deeper than a surface parallel with Vietnam’s unification in 1975: Germany and Vietnam hold more intimate ties in contemporary history, with both cooperating on many different fronts, from economy, international relations, to policy and legal training. Within such historical and political contexts, a comparison of Vietnamese and German trade union laws is well-merited to chart a tentative path forward for Vietnamese labour relations, given the continued cooperation between the two countries.

 Social-ecological transformation

In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the intent to connect the world by strengthening infrastructure development. In the wake of this announcement, the Chinese government and Chinese companies began to lend billions of dollars to developing countries for transportation development, special economic zone expansion, and seaport construction. On the one hand, the initiative could bring tremendous economic opportunities to the least developed areas in the world. On the other, the socio-ecological impacts are considered to be negative.

 

 Social Justice

The European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), effective on 1 August 2020, is one of the first two “new-generation” free trade agreements (FTAs) that Vietnam has joined. EVFTA promises to bring many benefits to Vietnam across areas ranging from trade, services, and investment to intellectual property, public procurement, labour, and the environment, among others. According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, wages of Vietnamese workers will be approximately one percent higher in foreign direct investment (FDI) enterprises than in domestic firms.

Even if the forecast of social benefits is a modest one, can a three percent wage increase by 2025 be achieved as expected? This is a question that should be studied thoroughly in order for policy-making to achieve the predicted benefits from EVFTA in practice.

 Social Justice

The Mekong Delta region in southwestern Vietnam is home to over 20 million people, and is crucial to the country’s agricultural and aquaculture production. It is also a unique natural habitat, teeming with thousands of plant and animal species that cannot be found anywhere else. Yet it is also one of the parts of Southeast Asia most threatened by accelerating climate change.

Philip Degenhardt of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung’s Southeast Asia Office in Hanoi spoke with the Institute’s director, Nguyen Hieu Trung, to learn more about the challenges that climate change is imposing in the Mekong Delta, and how people are responding.

 Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam

 

This paper provides an introduction to the initial impacts of the corona crisis on some the most vulnerable populations across the Mekong at the end of its first year. Part one highlights uneven fortunes of different social class fractions, from low paid workers in export-oriented industries to those participating in informal economies, immigrant workers and displaced persons. These fortunes are contrasted with those of salaried workers, big firms, and investors in financial markets.

 

 Laos

This study into the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on returning migrants in the three villages of Hard- Pho, Nakham and Sinxay in Bolikhamxay Province, Laos was conducted by a group of researchers in partnership with GAPE and NPA Consulting from May to December 2020. The study aimes to gain insights into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic of these migrants regarding the socio- economic situation, their coping strategies, and to identify areas of needs for support and policy interventions.

 Social Justice, Vietnam

According to research reports from INGO and government organizations, Vietnam state budget and resources have not been adequate in meeting the needs of social care for vulnerable people. Many official documents from the government call for contributions from all stakeholders in this area of “socializing social assistance”. In fact, for the past decades, many individual charities, philanthropists, religious groups, self-help groups… have supported vulnerable people, filling this gap of social assistance.

 

 Social Justice, Vietnam

With financial support from RLS SEA – Hanoi Office, the research team assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the group of migrant female workers in the informal sector in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. With the desire to have a concrete and comprehensive assessment of COVID's impacts on this target group, the research team used a participatory approach with a sociological survey method to survey over 600 qualified samples and 12 case studies in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city.

 

 Social-ecological transformation

In a world facing the escalating impacts of global warming, social protection has a crucial role to play in protecting women, communities and economies from catastrophic climate impacts, and avoiding the climate poverty spiral. Social protection tools can be used to address climate-induced loss and damage, strengthen resilience, and advance development goals and human rights.