Proletarianization and gateways to precarization in the context of land-based investments for agricultural commercialization in Lao PDR

TitleProletarianization and gateways to precarization in the context of land-based investments for agricultural commercialization in Lao PDR
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsNanhthavong V, Bieri S, Nguyen AThu, Hett C, Epprecht M
Secondary TitleWorld Development
Key themesAgriculturalModernization, Dispossession-grabbing, FDI, Gender, MigrationLabour

Labor is central to the debates on global land-based investment. Proponents purport that these investments are an avenue for rural transformation from resource- to wage-based livelihoods through the generation of employment and contribution to poverty reduction. Drawing on a recent, unique national dataset on land concessions in Lao PDR, this paper uses an agrarian political economy lens to investigate how land-based investments live up to this expectation. The paper analyzes potential determinants of the degree to which different social groups engage in wage-labor within land-based investments. Results show that while land-based investments create a significant absolute number of jobs, former land users were offered predominantly low-skilled and seasonal jobs. The effects of these investments on rural employment are uneven depending on degrees of land and resource dispossession, the extent of job creation, and the availability of alternative opportunities in the region. In the majority of cases, former land users, especially women were pushed into precarious conditions through three processes: dispossession without proletarianization; limited proletarianization; and adverse proletarianization. We argue that the promotion of land-based investments as an approach for rural development, particularly along the gradient of transforming resource- to wage-labor based livelihoods, is ineffective without concurrent opportunities within and beyond the agricultural sector to absorb the labor reallocated from traditional livelihoods. Enforcing labor regulations, including restrictions on hiring of foreign labor, compliance with minimum wages, and relevant skills transfer are essential to minimize precarization and increase benefits for local people. Further, protecting peasants’ individual and common land-use rights is imperative to minimize the concurrence of precarization and increasing traditional vulnerability.



Document Type

Journal Article