Multi-causal pathways to compliance and non-compliance with policies for female employees in Vietnam: Statistical analyses and fsQCA findings

Each country has unique characteristics, policy implementationin different countries might follow different patterns: top-down, bottom-up, or synthesis approach. Depending on the context of history, culture, politics, administration, social and economic development, a government can formulate policies and select a suitable implementation approach. Today, Vietnam is a developing country in Southeast Asia. Like many other developing countries, Vietnam suffers from an implementation deficit in many areas. In other words, policy non-compliance is a challenging problem for Vietnamese policy-makers and implementers. This dissertation will take the implementation of the Vietnamese female labor code as a case study.

In 2012, the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam adopted a new Labor Code in which there are priority regulations (from Articles 133 to 160 of Chapter X) especially set up for female workers. The aim of these policies is to enable Vietnamese women to enter the labor market, improve their livelihood as well as enhance their rights and benefits in family and society. However, the policy implementation process has not yet resulted in the expected outcomes. To shed more light on the implementation deficits is the main concern of this study. It is guided by the following research questions: 1. What is the degree of compliance with some selected policies for female employees in Vietnam? 2. What makes external norm addressees comply? 3. Are there similarities and differences in policy compliance and non-compliance between the public sector and the private sector, and if so, what are their characteristics?

My dissertation expects to provide a description of the degree of policy compliance and non-compliance as well as explores the complex causality of the diagnosed phenomenon. On the basis of the review of the most important implementation approaches (top-down, bottom-up, or synthesis), the study proposes an analytical framework hypothesizing seven possible factors linked to the degree of compliance, consisting of (1) latitudes of interpretation within the respective legal norms (2) the severity of legal sanctions against violations, (3) the availability of financial resources for policy implementation on the side of the external norm addressees, (4) the role of interest groups (such as trade unions) supporting or obstructing effective compliance, which might be considered as a kind of equivalent to public administration to control the degree of compliance, (5) the information level of the policy targets about policies (the content of the legal regulations), (6) the dispositions of the norm addressees towards the policy at stake, and (7) the characteristic of the external norm addressees as being in public or private ownership. From this analytical framework, some directional expectations will be laid down in assumptions that will contribute to direct the research.

To test these assumptions, my dissertation employs a combination of statistical analyses and fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA).The analytical framework serves the function to structure 84 not representative case studies on the implementation of three different policies being part of the Labor Code 2012 in Vietnam. The sample size for each sector is equal (42 cases in the public sector and 42 cases in the private sector), of which each case study is conducted along with a structure determined by a given questionnaire guide containing open and closed questions. Face-to-face interviews have been performed by a native speaker with both employers and employees in agencies, organizations, companies, enterprises, and factories in various fields. Under favorable conditions, the study approaches furthermore a representative of the trade union and a civil servant to contribute to the reliable value of the data. The independent variables used for statistical analyses are measured partly as variables at the ordinal scale level and partly at the nominal scale level; the dependent variable is at least at the ordinal scale level. These respective variables, in the language of QCA ‘conditions’ and ‘outcome’, are also transformed into a fuzzy set to make use of fsQCA, a powerful research methodology for identifying how necessary and/ or sufficient the conditions are (single or in combination) to lead to the implementation outcome. The analyses are performed separately for both compliance and noncompliance.

The results show that the findings coming from the statistical analyses and fsQCA are well-matched. However, fsQCA provides a more detailed understanding of the conditions under that the outcome occurs than does statistical analyses. According to the findings of the Pearson chi-square tests, four factors that have statistically significant relationships with policy compliance are (1) the absence of latitudes of interpretation in the policy under study, (2) the possibility of imposing effective sanctions, (3) the availability of sufficient financial resources for policy implementation on the side of the employers, and (4) supportive dispositions of the employers. The Pearson correlation and MRA also point out that the degree of policy compliance tends to be better if the provision of latitudes of interpretation is not given, the severity of legal sanctions are possible, financial resources and supportive dispositions of the external norm addressees are high. Similarly, the fsQCA findings show that the combination of such four factors is consistently associated with policy compliance. Notably, in fsQCA, the multi-causal pathways leading to compliance are different from those that are sufficient for non-compliance. To specify, non-compliance can be caused by two multi-causal pathways. The first one is the combination of the presence of latitudes of interpretation and the absence of legal sanctions. The second one is the combination of negative dispositions of the employers, the absence of the trade unions fighting for the rights of the female members, and the lack of information of the female workers about priority regulations. Moreover, my research results reveal that there are similarities and differences in implementing policies for female workers between the public sector and the private sector in Vietnam. In particular, the private sector tends to be more vulnerable to deficits than the public sector in implementing policies for female workers. The multi-causal pathways to policy non-compliance in the private sector are more complex than in the public sector, while the multi-causal pathways of policy compliance are the same in both sectors.

In general, the absence of latitudes of interpretation and the presence of sanctions still make a difference in policy implementation, while the supportive dispositions of the norm addressees are consistent with policy goals. They are seen as quasi-necessary conditions for policy compliance. Besides, the availability of financial resources is an indispensable condition in the multi-causal pathways to policy compliance. The results with respect to the information level of female employees and the taken responsibility of the trade unions in policy implementation remain ambiguous. The existence of latitudes of interpretation and the absence of sanctions are major attributes for noncompliance.  These results have important consequences for developing countries that regularly lack effective public administration. Accordingly, even when there is a lack of implementation capacity, giving clearly formulated regulations and substantial sanctions seems to help to prevent implementation deficits. On the basis of these research results, compliance might be furthered by the supportive disposition of the external norm addressees and the  availability of the financial resources.

The findings can make a contribution to fine-tuning policies for female workers in different sectors. They can help implementers and stakeholders to minimize disruptive tensions associated with implementation deficits so as to match policy expectations, gradually reducing the gender inequality in the labor market, enhancing the efficiency of state management as well as meeting the actual conditions in each sector. The research provides a theoretical contribution to the field of policy implementation in such a way that the application of any policy implementation models should strongly consider the role of external norm addressees, interest groups and policy targets that might affect non-compliant behaviors. Furthermore, the research contributes to the literature on the methodology in the social sciences. Using simultaneously both statistical analyses and fsQCA is a way to test assumptions more validly than using only one. Each methodology approach has its own merits and demerits. While the statistical approach can help to explore the relationship between variables as well as their direction, the fsQCA approach strives for a comprehensive explanation of the complex causality configuration under which the outcome occurs. This study contributes to affirm the advantages of using the methodology of fsQCA as a case-oriented and set-theoretic approach (Ragin 2008; Schneider and Wagenmann 2012; Pattyn et al. 2017; GerritsandVerweij 2018; Thomann 2019).



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