Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Antarctica: Industrialization Sparks Change

A HUMAN PERSPECTIVE Some of the largest employers in Southeast Asia are makers of athletic shoes. They provide much-needed jobs for Southeast Asians, but many observers have accused the companies of abusing workers. For example, in 1995, Lap Nguyen began working at a shoe factory in Vietnam. In February 1996, she was promoted to team leader. A month later, she claimed that a manager who was upset about production hit her. Nguyen told a U.S. reporter about the incident.

In 1998, Nguyen talked to the press again, this time about low wages. Her managers were upset about the interview, and she eventually lost her job. The company said that she was a bad worker, but labor groups believe Nguyen lost her job for talking to reporters. As her story shows, growing industries create jobs but sometimes under harsh conditions.

Moving to Find Jobs

For many people struggling to escape poverty, any job—even one with long hours, low pay, and abusive managers—is better than none. For example, Deth Chrib of Cambodia works in a garment factory 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. She is glad she can support her family without resorting to illegal activities. Although her day is long, Deth Chrib says the job is “pretty easy, compared to working on a farm.” Across Southeast Asia, people are moving from farms to cities to find work.

Because of this, industrialization, or the growth of industry, and the growth of cities are closely linked. It is impossible to study industrialization without studying urban growth. People move to cities because of push-pull factors. Push factors are forces that push people out of their homelands, while pull factors pull them to a new place.


Many forces drive rural people off their land. Push factors in Southeast Asia include the following:

  • Lost Resources Rural areas are suffering soil erosion, deforestation, and water overuse. For example, Thailand has a water shortage in farming areas because of overpumping. Scarce resources make it hard to earn a living.
  • Scarcity of Land In the Philippines, for example, 3 percent of the country's landowners hold 25 percent of the land. Sixty percent of rural families don't have enough land to earn a living by farming.
  • Population Growth As populations grow, land shortages become worse. Farmers who do own land often divide it among many heirs. As a result, the plots become too small to support a family.


Equally powerful forces attract people to cities. In Southeast Asia, pull factors include the following:

  • Industry The opportunity to find a factory job is the biggest pull factor. Many people move to the city temporarily to earn money to send to relatives in rural areas. In 1993, workers in the Philippines sent $2.2 billion home, while Thai workers sent $983 million home.
  • Other Benefits People move to cities seeking other benefits besides jobs, such as education and government services. However, the desire for education is usually related to a desire for jobs.


As is true of cities all over the world, the cities of Southeast Asia are having difficulty dealing with such large numbers of immigrants. The availability of housing has not kept pace with the growing city population. As a result, many new arrivals live in slums.

A larger population generates more pollution. Traffic has increased because greater numbers of workers drive to jobs and greater numbers of trucks transport goods. This causes more air pollution; high levels of particulates are the most serious concern. In Bangkok, Thailand, an estimated 5,000 people a year die from breathing polluted air.

Another problem is the disposal of human waste. Most Southeast Asian cities do not have facilities to treat all their sewage. Untreated sewage, in turn, contaminates water supplies.

Other Results of Industrialization

The growth of industry in Southeast Asia has done more than create rapidly growing cities. It has also affected the economy and the environment.


Several Southeast Asian countries have had rapid industrial growth since the 1960s. One result of this has been an increase in trade and exports.

As industry has grown, the region has seen higher incomes for some citizens. In many Southeast Asian countries, the middle class is expanding. But the income gap between rich and poor remains high. This has the potential to cause social unrest because crime rates often rise in societies in which a few people have wealth while high numbers of people live in poverty. You learned about income gaps in Unit 3.


Population growth is not the only cause of increased air and water pollution. Industry can also damage the environment. Factories can pollute the air by burning fossil fuels, and the water and soil by carelessly disposing of toxic materials.

The nature of industry in Southeast Asia makes it hard to control such pollution. A single city may contain thousands of factories and shops. Many of these industries are very small, but together they create a great deal of waste. For example, 30,000 factories in Jakarta, Indonesia, discharge pollutants into the waterways.

Industry has also harmed the environment by using up valuable resources such as water and trees. For instance, textile companies in Bandung, Indonesia, have built illegal wells that deplete water supplies. As a result, some neighborhoods in that city have no water.

In the future, Southeast Asia must reduce the negative effects of industrialization while promoting the positive effects. Cities need to find ways to provide housing and services for all residents. Southeast Asian nations must continue to grow economically, so their citizens will have increased opportunities. The region as a whole must preserve its environment, or industries may abandon the region once its resources are gone. In the Case Study that follows, you will read about environmental changes such as global warming and the hole in the ozone layer.