Formal and informal regulation of labour disputes in Southeast Asia

Project: Research

Project Details

Project Description

The project will investigate the formal and informal mechanisms of collective labour dispute resolution in three Southeast Asian countries: Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The project is based on the important observation that formal (state-based) labour laws and institutions often play only a limited role in these countries. That is to say, Southeast Asian legal systems, and state-based labour law and industrial relations systems more specifically, are generally characterised by limited effectiveness, while non-state regulation and the activities of unofficial actors may complement, substitute or conflict with the law.

The project will address three sets of questions regarding collective dispute resolution in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam:

1. How are collective labour disputes defined and regulated under the formal legal systems of each country?
2. How effectively do these systems operate in practice and what are the major conditions contributing to the relative success or failure of such systems?
3. What role is played by informal institutions and actors in dispute resolution and settlement in each country; how does such informal regulation interact with formal labour law; and what are the effects of such alternative mechanisms in practice?


This project will use a combination of doctrinal legal analysis and empirical qualitative research methods. The project is also comparative and examines three country contexts in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, and will focus on the manufacturing sector in each country. The project will involve a systematic and sustained study of the laws and formal institutions that regulate collective labour disputes in conjunction with empirical interview-based research on actual dispute resolution and the identification of informal norms and processes also used by actors and institutions (i.e., how law interacts with other forms of regulation or normative ordering).
Effective start/end date1/04/1930/03/25