Coronavirus claims jobs in urban centers

By Quynh Trang   March 15, 2020 | 07:48 am GMT+7
Coronavirus claims jobs in urban centers
An English center in Hanoi is seen closed on March 13, 2020 amid the coronavirus epidemic. VnExpress/Quynh Trang.

A rising number of workers in Vietnam's major cities are concerned about their jobs as the coronavirus hits businesses’ revenues.

While 96 million people in the country are hoping they will not be the next victim of the novel coronavirus, Nhu Ngoc has another concern: whether she will still have a job tomorrow.

Her company, an online game distributor in Hanoi, has been downsizing since the outbreak began and revenues plummeted.

Most of the games the company distributes are from China, the epicenter of the outbreak, and it now has few games to distribute.

This has resulted in downsizing of all departments, and one of Ngoc’s colleagues has been sacked. The 26-year-old is concerned she might be next.

"All I can do now is just to show up early, focus more on my work and hope things improve."

She is among a rising number of workers who are concerned about their jobs as the coronavirus hits businesses’ revenues.

In Hanoi alone, over 3,000 businesses have closed in the last two months due to the epidemic, according to the tax department.

In February tax collection was down by 53 percent year-on-year due to the epidemic’s impacts on the hospitality industry, restaurants and companies selling products from China, it added.

Workers in the education sector are suffering since public schools and most private schools have not reopened after the Lunar New Year break in late January.

In Hanoi, after a series of new coronavirus cases were diagnosed in the space of a week, schools will remain closed until the end of the month. Most provinces have made the same decision, with HCMC extending the break until April 5.

For Nguyen Hoai, a student administrator at an English center in Hanoi, the long break means her income has fallen by two-thirds since most classes have been closed.

Her center’s revenues have now dropped from over VND1 billion ($43,000) a month to tens of millions of dong (VND10 million = $430).

"Students now take online courses, but we don’t get revenues from them. This means salary cuts for all staff."

Hoai and her colleagues are still working 12 hours a day trying to attract students, but their task has become much more difficult amid the disease.

Many teachers say a month-long break during the school year is unprecedented in their career.

Nhan, a teacher at Hugo Kids kindergarten in Hanoi, has seen her salary cut by 30 percent since February.

"Every week there is an announcement that schools will remain closed for another week. I cannot find any part- time job."

Some of Nhan’s colleagues have quit and looked for other jobs to pay their bills, while others have no choice but to keep waiting for classes to resume.

Hugo Kids has seen its revenues fall to zero though it still has to pay VND46 million ($1,980) a month for rent.

Nguyen Thi Thu Phuong, chairwoman of the school, had decided to turn it into an eatery serving breakfast and snacks hoping this would keep the teachers busy.

Two men have breakfast at Hugo Kids Kindergarten in Hanoi which is turned into an eatery amid the coronavirus epidemic. Photo courtesy of Hugo Kids.

Two men have breakfast at Hugo Kids Kindergarten in Hanoi which is turned into an eatery amid the coronavirus epidemic. Photo courtesy of Hugo Kids.

However, those plans too collapsed after a series of new Covid-19 cases were detected in Hanoi since March 6 and people are not keen on eating out.

"My only hope now is that the landlord will lower rents by 30-50 percent."

Other schools are also struggling to survive. One hundred fifty private schools around the country recently sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc seeking tax incentives.

They said if the epidemic lasts six months 80 percent of them would see their revenues fall by half and could go bankrupt.

Many schools in Hanoi and HCMC could hang on for three months at most, after which thousands of staff would face unemployment and trillions of dong (VND1 trillion = $43 million) in bank repayments would be delayed, it said.

Phuong plans to reopen the eatery at her school in the next few days if the situation improves.

But with the number of confirmed cases in Vietnam rising to 53 as of Saturday, her plan seems too optimistic.

 
 
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