Luke Holmes

Thesis title: Exploring experiences of Vietnamese labour migration in the UK and Vietnam: dominant discourses and migrants’ lived experiences

Start year: 2019


Supervisor(s): Dr Tamsin Barber, Professor Tina Miller

Research topic

Significant labour migration has occurred between Vietnam and the UK since the 1990s; the labour provided by these migrants has resulted in the growth of British-Vietnamese industries such as nails salons and restaurants. Despite the significance of this migration, there has been limited research on the topic. Furthermore, it has been primarily viewed through the lens of ‘modern slavery’ and the Modern Slavery Act (2015).

Through its utilisation of the lens of migrants’ lived experiences, this PhD aims to understand in greater depth the experiences and migratory trajectories of individuals who undertake this migration. The research will focus on individual experiences of migration and return exploring the various structures which constrain and enable migrants during trajectories; the composition of their agency within these structural contexts; and how structure and agency interact to shape life courses. This explicit focus on individual migrant trajectories seeks to shed light on the variety of factors involved, and processes of individual decision-making during migration.

Three key stages of data collection will be conducted as migratory ‘chains’ are explored across the project. Interviews will be conducted with participants who are planning to migrate from Vietnam, those working in the UK, and those who have returned to Vietnam following a period of working in the UK. Through a multi-stage design which focuses on both sending and ‘host’ countries more nuanced and contextualized trajectories of migration will be discernible.

This qualitative research project will explicitly privilege the voices and narratives of migrants, capturing individual understandings of agency, everyday experiences, and their cultural and contextual location. By doing so, it will provide a much more nuanced understanding of the diversity and complexity of individual migration experiences and the factors which frame patterns of migration from Vietnam. It is anticipated that through the collection of such data, the appropriateness of contemporary dominant discourses related to Vietnamese migration, such as ‘modern slavery’, can be further explored. It is intended that the research findings will have relevance for policy-makers, NGOs and support organisations.


Labour migration, Vietnamese migrant workers, Vietnam

General research interests

Sociology, migration studies, narrative research, lived experience, structure and agency, discourse, precarity, illegality, risk, resilience, irregular migration, Vietnam

Academic school / department

School of Law and Social Sciences

Further details

Academic and professional training

  • National Vietnamese Language Proficiency Exam Level 5 (C1), University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Hanoi, Vietnam (2016–2018)
  • CELTA, Apollo, Hanoi, Vietnam (2015)
  • BA (Hons) Criminology with First Class Honours, University of Leicester (2010–2013)

Scholarships and prizes

  • Global Challenges Research Studentship 2019–2022

Other experience and professional activities

  • 2015–2018: English as a foreign language teacher at various schools and universities, including Diplomatic Academy Vietnam and Banking Academy Vietnam (Hanoi, Vietnam)
  • 2013–2014: Helped establish education NGO TeachForKorea (Daegu, South Korea)
  • 2013–2014: English as a foreign language teacher (Daegu, South Korea)