Universität Bielefeld

© Universität Bielefeld


The main methodological features of this project include: 1) a translocal approach and 2) the combination of bottom-up and top-down perspectives through the simultaneous use of ethnographic studies and comparative social policy analysis.

Translocal Approach

Migrant factory workers tend to live away from their rural parental or marital homes in separation from their parents and/or children and/or spouses, whose welfare is inseparable from theirs. The research will therefore closely examine the access to and negotiation of welfare by both the workers and their significant others across the city and the countryside. It will thereby take into account all available forms of welfare provisions beyond family and kinship, including that from the state, private sector, and third-sector organizations.


Ethnography is the methodological bread and butter of anthropology. Apart from standard procedures of empirical research such as interviews and surveys, doing ethnography requires the researcher to be personally immersed in the everyday realities of people’s lives over a long period of time to understand their perspectives on the topic under study.

Two ethnographic studies, one in each country, will be conducted by two PhD researchers. The studies will have the same design of moving between the migrant workers’ factory locations and their villages. The PhD researchers will each spend one year doing field research in either China or Vietnam.

Comparative Social Policy Analysis

Complementary to the ethnographic study, a comparative social policy analysis will examine the politics between actors and institutions involved in formulating and implementing welfare policies and actions targeted at migrant factory workers. A post-doctoral researcher will conduct the analysis based on a year of field research split between China and Vietnam.