Building decent work for ethnic minorities, part two


Decent work requires sustained productive work that provides fair pay, safe working conditions, equal opportunities, freedom to express concerns and opportunities for personal development.

However, in-work poverty, job insecurity and inequalities, including gender and ethnicity or access to education and training, are some of the challenges for workers across the world. The resulting outcome is in an impact on individual wellbeing.

A core tenet of decent work is decency, but context and culture are important in understanding the nuances. New research focuses on the specific challenges faced by young ethnic minorities in obtaining decent work. The study explored decent work in one of the world’s fastest growing economies which has 54 ethnic minority groups. Insights from the case of Vietnam have global application.

Using a collaborative and strengths-based approach to development can help iron out ethnic inequalities, reduce in-work poverty and improve opportunities for all for finding decent work, find Tony Wall, Ann Hindley et al.

This is the second part of a research piece for HR magazine. Catch up on part one here for context and more key findings before reading the below.


Key findings continued

Appreciative inquiry

These young ethnic minorities often feel marginalised in society and are rarely involved in any policy-making that will have direct impact on them. As a young person from an ethnic minority group in Vietnam, this marginalisation is systemic and often accompanied by a lack of self-worth.

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They can also be silenced by power imbalances in the wider world, although this silence should not be mistaken for nothing to say.

Therefore, building trust with research participants and carefully managing interactions is an important step in appreciative inquiry, which aims to facilitate positive change in stakeholder groups.

Appreciative inquiry builds on affirmative steps, such as: What is the best of what we already have, what is working well? What might be the ideal? And what needs to change to reach and sustain that ideal?

Validation reinforces the value and importance of points made by the participant. Part of this validation is also in the visibility of cultural heritage celebrated through events, blogs and social media outputs.


Young people speak out

Young people from ethnic minorities confidently engaged in Vietnamese and English-speaking workshops during dissemination events. They explained that at times they had lacked self-awareness, self-motivation, self-direction and felt unconfident.

However, they recognised through the appreciative inquiry that they needed to change these behaviours, to understand themselves and not allow negative peer pressure or family pressure to unsettle them.

At the start of the appreciative inquiry sessions, they preferred to write instead of speak, but they gradually felt more comfortable with someone who knew their name.

They found that icebreakers were important to create common ground and clubs were important to maintain networks and cultural heritage.

They acknowledged the importance of the interpreters in bridging language and cultural divisions, but also in facilitating sessions and offering encouragement, rather than criticism.

They further acknowledged the importance of being realistic about their abilities and the need to reach out – to network and to stay active by raising their voices in debate. They appreciated that these skills and attributes are critical in understanding recruiting requirements and achieving decent work.


From research to reality

World leaders called for a Decade of Action to enhance national implementation of the SDGs and strengthen institutions to achieve these by 2030.

In addition to UN SDG8 which promotes decent work for all, UN SDG10 aims to “reduce inequality within and among countries” and includes targets to empower and promote inclusion for all, irrespective of ethnicity, and to ensure equal opportunities by eliminating discriminatory practices.

This study recognises that as an aspiration, decent work is complicated for young ethnic minorities to achieve, particularly as long-established and discriminatory societal norms vary by location.

A localised perspective that values and embraces cultural diversity, and which works towards decent work on a national scale is therefore critical in enabling access and engagement in decent work.

Policy-making needs to combine local knowledge and national priorities, but this requires co-creation with diverse cultures visible in the process and validation of their experience.

This is not only an investment in the future of national economies, but in our young ethnic minorities by demonstrating they are worthy and of value.

Encouraging participation in education and in the workplace is important in building knowledge, skills, and confidence.

As influential citizens or business leaders who positively contribute to society they become new role models, which is important for future generations.

However, employers need to establish better relationships with the education system.

School-leavers, vocational-leavers and graduates all need to have the skills desired by employers, as well as the aptitude for life-long learning to deal with transformations and disruptions in the marketplace.


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Tony Wall is a professor and research director at Chester Business School and the International Centre for Thriving at the University of Chester and Ann Hindley is a senior lecturer at Chester Business School, University of Chester.

Nga Ngo at Tay Bac University, Minh Phuong Luong, at Hanoi University and Thi Hanh Tien Ho at Phu Xuan University also contributed to this research.


This piece appears in the January/February 2022 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.