Skip navigation
SEI brief

Air pollution and the world of work in Southeast Asia: findings from regional case studies

Four independent research projects undertaken by researchers in Cambodia, Vietnam, Lao PDR and Thailand, aimed to improve the state of knowledge on air pollution and workers’ exposures in southeast Asia, focusing on both informal and formal labour in certain occupations.

Download  Download the brief / PDF / 1 MB

Slater, J., Archer, D., O’Neill, C., Yi-Chen Han, J., & Vanhuyse, F. (2023). Air Pollution and the World of Work in Southeast Asia: Findings from Regional Case Studies. SEI brief. Stockholm Environment Institute.

To effectively mitigate emissions and reduce the health burden from air pollution exposure requires understanding the factors that impact exposure. A programme focused on understanding these factors, “Air pollution and the world of work in southeast Asia”, ran from 2021 to 2023, with research partners at the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment in Cambodia, University of Health Sciences in Lao PDR, the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand, and the Institute of Human Studies in Vietnam.

The programme assessed the magnitude and key sources of air pollution in different locations and furthered understanding of how different groups of a population are exposed. Understanding an individual’s experience of air pollution and the different ways they are exposed could allow for development of targeted and effective policies with massive benefits for people’s health, and the findings from this programme have led to the recommendations reported in this brief, as well as in individual briefs on each case study and in a larger report.

Key messages

  • Case studies show how gender, age, class and other qualifications impact air pollution exposure in workplaces in four countries in southeast Asia, sometimes in unexpected ways, which points to the need for an intersectional approach to these issues.
  • Informal workers in southeast Asia are more at risk from occupational air pollution exposure and are also less protected by healthcare provisions and labour protection policies.
  • Most workers in the region have little awareness of the health impacts of air pollution in their place of work. Consequently, they are less likely to ask for protection or advocate for policy changes to reduce the health burden they face from occupational air pollution exposure.
  • Accountability and responsibility are lacking for reducing air pollution exposure and impacts for workers, and consequently this issue remains unaddressed in the region. This gap should be remedied by long-term strategic plans to protect workers across sectors that align with national and local development priorities, while at the same time ensuring environmental compliance.

Download the brief / PDF / 1 MB

SEI authors

Diane Archer

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Asia

Connie O’Neill

Research Associate

SEI York

Fedra Vanhuyse
Fedra Vanhuyse

Head of Division: Societies, Climate and Policy Support

SEI Headquarters

Design and development by Soapbox.