Covid-19 wave ushers fresh unemployment surge

By Dat Nguyen   June 6, 2021 | 06:00 pm PT
Covid-19 wave ushers fresh unemployment surge
People wait to file for unemployment in June 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.
Tens of thousands have lost their jobs in the latest Covid-19 wave as social distancing orders slashes demand for workers in various sectors.

Tran Minh Trang, a resident of the northern province of Hung Yen, has not been called for any babysitting job since early last month.

As the couple she works for have been working from home due to social distancing, the 50-year-old woman's services are no longer needed. Her monthly income of around VND10 million ($430) has dwindled to zero.

"I don't know when they're going to call me back. For now I live off my savings," said Trang, who lives with her husband.

In Hanoi, where coffee shops have been ordered to serve only takeaways, 19-year-old Minh Quang has stayed at home for several weeks now as waiters are not needed.

"I live with my parents so the situation is not too bad. But I hope I can get back to work soon so I am not more of a burden on them."

Trang and Minh are among thousands upon thousands of people in Vietnam who have been rendered jobless because of the latest Covid-19 wave crippling many industries and cut demand for labor, yet again.

Like last year, tourism has been among the hardest hit sectors. Tourism revenues fell 48 percent year-on-year in the first five months to VND4.3 trillion ($185 million), according to the General Statistics Office.

Nearly 31,900 tourism workers in Da Nang have been laid off, permanently or temporarily, because of the latest Covid-19 wave. They account for almost 63 percent of the total workforce.

Over 90 percent of 5,000 tourism companies in the central city have closed, and around 11.9 percent of them have said they would not survive after this year considering their dwindling capital reserves, according to a study by the Da Nang Tourism Association.

"The difficulties are piling up. It is now a question of how we can keep companies alive, not when they will resume operation," said association chairman Cao Tri Dung.

Hanoi-based Luu Viet Dung, with 10 years of experience as a tour guide, has been out of work since April. His monthly income of around VND20 million has now dropped to VND5-7 million from selling goods online.

With a third child on the way, making ends meet is a real challenge for the 33-year-old, who said: "I don't know how we'll be able to cover expenses if the pandemic prolongs."

With transportation another hard hit sector, workers have had to bear the brunt. For national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, only 8 percent of nearly 3,200 flight attendants are working full-time. The rest either work part-time or stay at home for one to six months without pay, said captain of the airline flight attendant team Phan Ngoc Linh.

The situation has arisen because the number of flights of the national flag carrier fell from 500 to 70 a day in May. The country’s aviation sector served 288 million passengers in May, down 14.9 percent from April.

Many flight attendants have switched to other jobs to survive the pandemic, including real estate brokering, organizing marketing events, delivering goods or selling goods online.

"We have had to move some staff together to the same apartment to share rent, and take other measures to provide free flights for them to return to their hometown instead of big cities like Hanoi and HCMC," Linh told Tien Phong newspaper.

Hanoi resident Le Thao has never been so "free" in her 15 years of being a flight attendant. Her Facebook page is now full of posts promoting cosmetics and food, which is now her day job.

In the railways sector, over 3,200 employees have stopped working because major routes have been shut down with low demand.

With over 5,000 local Covid-19 cases recorded in the latest outbreak, government officials have called for priority in preventing the spread of the disease in industrial parks so as to keep workers employed and the supply chain intact.

Enterprises in some sectors like textile and garment, footwear, fisheries, and electronics have also called for prioritizing vaccination of their workers since those work in industrial zones are exposed to greater risks.

The government has increased support for the unemployed. Starting May 15, they can receive VND1.5 million per month for vocational training, up 50 percent from before.

Da Nang has proposed that its tourism workers are allowed to borrow up to VND100 million for three to five years to survive the pandemic. Nearly 2,000 workers have already signed up for such loans.

But workers are aware that any support they get is temporary. What they want most is for the pandemic to be contained soon with vaccination so that things can return to normal.

Trang, the babysitter, has only this to say, with a sigh: "I’m tired of Covid."

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