Quantitative and Qualitative Data Collection

Quantitative Data Collection

The year 2008 was a busy but fruitful one for the CHAMPSEA team, having successfully completed the fieldwork for the quantitative phase in the four study countries of Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Fieldwork in these countries was launched two weeks apart from each other, with the Philippines starting first on 14 April 2008, followed by Indonesia on 28 April 2008, Thailand on 19 May 2008 and finally, Vietnam on 26 May 2008. On average, each country spent around three months in the field and data collection as well as entry for this phase was completed in November 2008. Around 1,000 households per country were interviewed.

The following survey instruments were used:
- Household Questionnaire
- Carer Questionnaire
- Older Child Questionnaire
- Young Child Activity

If you are interested in looking at our survey instruments, please email us at asianmetacentre (at) nus.edu.sg

Qualitative Data Collection

The CHAMPSEA Team embarked on its qualitative phase in 2009. Thus far, fieldwork for this phase has been successfully completed in the Philippines and Vietnam, and is currently wrapping up in Indonesia. Fieldwork in Thailand will commence shortly after the training of interviewers in Singapore from 9th to 10th July 2009.

In the qualitative study, we seek to cover aspects of the impact of parental migration on children left behind that could not be interrogated using a survey design. We are also collecting information on care arrangements, relationships, feelings and emotions associated with parental absence.

Postdoctoral fellow, Dr Hoang Lan Anh, was in Vietnam recently to conduct the qualitative interviews. She shares her thoughts and observations with us:

With the support of the Vietnam Asia-Pacific Economic Centre (VAPEC), I was in Vietnam from 19 th April to 31 st June 2009 to conduct the fieldwork in Thai Binh Province, 110 km south-east of Hanoi. Thai Binh Province is one of the seven provinces in the Red River Delta in the North of Vietnam. It is the only predominantly agricultural province in the country with population density exceeding 1,000 persons (Rambo et al., 1991: 30). The extreme pressure placed by its population on the limited resource base is one of the most important factors constraining the development prospects of the province. Rice-based small-scale agriculture remains as the backbone of the provincial economy although agricultural production is no longer able to ensure food self-sufficiency for local farming households due to poor per capita land endowment.

Transnational labour migration from Thai Binh to countries other than the former Soviet bloc started a new wave of migration in the 1990s with Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea being the top destinations. Vu Thu District – our study site – has seen the most transnational out-migrants compared to other districts in Thai Binh. The fieldwork was carried out in five communes of Vu Thu District through networks of health workers and Women Union’s members. A total of 50 interviews with carers were conducted in the conversational style with the use of an Aide Memoire. In general, the fieldwork went smoothly although it was not always easy to find eligible households according to our sampling criteria – many migrants have returned home for good since our last quantitative survey in 2008 mostly due to the current economic recession that had hit the manufacturing sector in Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan badly. Voice recordings of the interviews are being transcribed and translated into English and data processing is expected to be completed by the end of 2009.

The absence of a parent due to transnational labour migration implies important changes in the way childcare is arranged in the “transnationally split household” depending on who the migrant is. While many cases in our study appear to confirm the stereotypical depiction of the left-behind husband in the literature as drunken and lazy men shunning their parenting duties, involved in extra-marital relationships and squandering away remittances, it was not all bad when the mother was away. Some children who were cared for by fathers in migrant households had better health outcomes and did better at school than their peers from usually resident households. The wealth generated from migration apparently allowed migrant households to invest more in their children, be it in terms of time or money. In contrast, parents in usually resident households often worked longer hours, held different jobs at the same time and generally could not afford to spare more time to care for their children.

During my fieldwork in Vietnam, I also observed an important aspect of transnational labour migration that has not attracted much attention from scholars as well as policy makers – the large financial debts incurred by return migrants due to their ‘failed’ migration. Many households in the study actually became impoverished after migration because of the hefty debts incurred to cover migration costs. The people affected are often those who are at the lower end of the economic ladder, who could only afford paying lesser fees and thus, could only get lower-paid jobs with higher risks and job insecurity. In some cases, the migrants hardly earned enough by the end of their contract to settle all their debts. This problem is further aggravated by the current economic recession. The costs of migration imposed an extra economic burden on left-behind spouses, some of whom were forced to take full-time jobs outside the farm for the first time in order to support the family and pay debts. This has serious impacts on the health and welfare of the children as well as that of the migrant and his/her spouse.




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