Jobs at the Border

Promoting Gender-Sensitive Policies for Special Economic Zones in the Mekong Region

Special Economic Zones (SEZs)

SEZs have emerged as foreign investment-capturing instruments and a prominent strategy in the pursuit of regional economic integration in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

The Mekong Migration Network (MMN) and Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), jointly implemented the project Jobs at the Border: Promoting Gender-Sensitive Policies for Special Economic Zones in the Mekong Region a research and advocacy project from 2016 to 2019, investigating labour and migration issues in Mekong SEZs through a gendered lens.

Guided by the question of whether the jobs being created within these zones are promoting decent work for women migrant workers, this study developed four case studies of SEZs: Thilawa SEZ (Yangon Region, Myanmar), Phnom Penh SEZ (Phnom Penh, Cambodia), Manhattan SEZ (Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia), and Tak SEZ (Tak Province, Thailand), with a particular focus on the garment industry.

Four key themes

Four key themes emerged as requiring special attention in order to realise decent work for women migrant garment factory workers in Mekong SEZs


Working Conditions


Labour Organising


Skills Development and Recognition


Care Work

The impact of SEZ development on workers’ mobility was also highlighted in an analysis of these themes.

The project has conducted 700 semi-structured interviews in these four locations, as well as in-depth interviews and key informant interviews. Several workshops have been organized with the stakeholders and the last workshop is to be held on 20-21 June 2019 at Bangkok.

Jobs in SEZs: Migrant garment factory workers in the Mekong Region

Multi-stakeholder workshop

Jobs in SEZs: Promoting Gender-Sensitive Policies in the Mekong Region

For details, please contact

Kyoko Kusakabe,

Head of Department of Development and Sustainability (DDS),

Asian Institute of Technology (AIT)

email: kyokok[at]

Reiko Harima,

Regional Coordinator,

Mekong Migration Network

email: reiko[at]