Gender, CSR, and Mining: Perspectives From Lao PDR

Gender, CSR, and Mining: Perspectives From Lao PDR

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3811-0.ch004

Abstract

This chapter presents the key findings on how the mining industry and MNCs influence various aspects of life and wellbeing of women in Lao PDR. The study shows that mining MNCs can provide various opportunities for women. Mining MNCs have clung to the narrow compliance-based view of CSR for certain periods of time, due to the management system and corporate policies. They seem to focus on economic activities to empower women and promote the concept of gender equality. The data supports the contention that avoiding the potential detrimental effects that mining MNCs can have on fragile ecosystems, gender inequality, and local social issues should be made a priority. Recently, however, mining MNCs have tended to shift their actions to sustainable economic and skill development in Lao, due to their understanding of local contexts. The results also show that opportunities provided by mining MNCs can create long-term benefits to various members of the community including family of the miners, suppliers, trans-border and transnational workers, and women from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
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Women And Employment

The Vilabouly community comprises members from Laos, countries outside of Laos and ethnic minorities. While we were working in the field, we observed that the major occupations in Vilabouly include mining-related work, the agricultural sector and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Prior to the advent of the mining industry in the community, most people worked on the farm and in the forest (DOM, 2008). Some may have continued their work when the mining industry was introduced to the community. Some changed their career from the agricultural sector to mining. The relationship between mining and women in the community is a close one.

From the interviews with various members of the Vilabouly community, we learnt that the mining industry creates tremendous economic opportunities for women in Vilabouly and those who migrate to work and reside in Vilabouly. Women can engage in various types of work and economic opportunities in the mining industry. From the community’s perspective, the CSR programmes of the mining company operating in Laos provide a mechanism to compensate for the social and environmental costs associated with mining. These costs are usually associated with environmental impact, higher food and housing costs, relocation and social impacts from an increase in the number of workers living in the area.

When it comes to employment by mining MNC, the company clearly understands that mining is traditionally a male-dominated industry, and it may be difficult to attract and retain women to work in the industry. In their recruitment and employment policies, the company encourages women to apply for various positions from the operation of heavy machinery, management and administration to supporting roles in the mine. The goal of this approach to gender equity is to minimise differences between women and men so that women can compete as equals.

To encourage Lao women in the industry, the company must guide them toward understanding their roles, values and contributions to the organisation. This is important for the company to play the role of promoter to encourage women in the organisation.

Some strategies include leadership-development programmes for women, introducing flexible work practises, open discussion of career paths with all members in the organisation (both men and women), and assertiveness training for men and women. It is also stated in the sustainability report of a mining company in Lao PDR that targeting women to manage the organisation is one of the key business strategies of the company.

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