Laos illustration

Laos

Rural village house, Luang Prabang, Laos, May 2010 (Source: Katherine Brickell)

Gender, Labour and Domestic Life in Luang Prabang

Dates: October 2009-September 2010
Funding: Association of Southeast Asian Studies in the United Kingdom
Research cooperation: Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) and Lao Women’s Union

My research in Laos involved three months of field research between April-June 2010 and aimed to explore what influence women’s involvement in paid work was having on family life. Honing in on women’s (tourist-oriented) employment as a key example of change, the research spoke to men and women from two communities, the first, a rural pottery village where the jobs there are diversifying with the recent arrival of a resort, and the second, a village located in the centre of Luang Prabang – the country’s main tourist hub -where its famous night market is held daily. My research showed for women now involved in paid employment the meaning of their work extends far beyond just economic rationale providing space away from their family and allowing them to explore new friendship networks of support and advice. It also showed the accompanying tension that parents and husband’s feel respectively towards these changes that women will start neglecting their household duties and be exposed to dangerous influences such as ‘modern’ lifestyles and extra-marital temptations. In this sense, it was found that changes in attitude towards women’s role in Laotian society are not keeping pace with women’s involvement in employment.

I am currently writing up this research for publication.