NGOs’ interactions with migrant workers
: comparing China and India from a spatial perspective

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis analyses the intersection of migrant workers and non-government organisations (NGOs) in China and India through a relational-spatial framework. The high political, economic and social significance of migrant workers and NGOs in both countries make it essential to have more detailed insights into how the two communities relate to each other, but literature to-date tends to give priority to macro-structural visions, and consequently leave micro-level realities and the role of multiple actors largely untouched. I therefore integrate human geography approaches from Henri Lefebvre and Doreen Massey into a new spatial framework, and then conceptualise NGO-migrant interaction through this framework to interpret NGO-migrant relations from their outset. Based on 18 months of in-depth qualitative fieldwork on eight NGOs across four cities in China and India, I explore the contextualisation of NGO-migrant relations in each country, and highlight their similarities and differences. In both countries I find that there is a political-economic regime which strives to preserve its dominance over workplaces and public places, to which NGOs in both countries are subject; however, the authoritarian regime in China is more restrictive of NGOs’ attempt to construct interactive space than the more liberal-democratic one in India. As a result, Chinese NGOs’ strategies and outcomes of their relational formation tend to be much more polarised than those of Indian NGOs, with different types of NGOs in different cities showing different responses. This thesis highlights the significance of contextual impacts on NGO-migrant relation, and showcase the usefulness of a relational-spatial framework in exploring nuanced details within multi-actor dynamics, with important implications for research on labour, voluntary sector, and development in countries with different political systems.
Date of Award1 Aug 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorCharlotte Goodburn (Supervisor) & Eduardo Gomez (Supervisor)

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