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Stay back, central Vietnam tells workers but finds few takers

By Staff reporters   October 21, 2021 | 08:35 pm PT
Stay back, central Vietnam tells workers but finds few takers
A family is seen on a motorbike in Da Nang City after traveling from the southern province of Binh Duong, October 10, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong
Central provinces are struggling to convince workers to stay back even as labor demand rises in the south, where factories are reopening after the pandemic-induced hiatus.

Nguyen Thi Duong has been living in her hometown in Quang Nam Province for two months, having returned from HCMC where she has lived for 10 years as it went through a prolonged lockdown as epicenter of the latest Covid-19 wave to hit the country.

She is planning to return as the city opens up further.

"I’m used to the life there. My work was stable. It was only disrupted by Covid," said the 37-year-old woman, who used to run an eatery that was the main source of income for her family of four.

As Quang Nam does not have a lot of industrial parks, and there is limited area to farm rice, people like Duong and her husband are unable to find suitable jobs in the central province.

She can work at a textile company in her hometown, but the salary of VND6–8 million ($263–350) per month is lower than what she can make in HCMC.

Duong is among 1.3 million workers who left major localities in the south for their hometowns between July and September; but as the country looks to kick-start its economy in the new normal, she and many others are looking for ways to return to the south to find work.

Another Quang Nam resident, Le Quoc Nhat, 29, is waiting to get the second Covid-19 vaccine dose to return to work in HCMC.

Nhat, who returned to Vietnam after studying abroad in Israel, finds HCMC a vibrant city where he and his friends can easily discuss and follow up on business opportunities.

Many of his friends have worked hard and secured positions with a company there, which give them stable income, he said.

"There are jobs in my hometown, but the salary and positions are not as good as before. Many people are too old to learn new skills to find a different line of work."

Quang Nam has recorded more than 10,000 people returning from HCMC and other southern localities during and after the fourth Covid-19 wave.

Of 6,500 returnees who responded to a recent survey, only 15.5 percent said they plan to stay back and work in the province. Most of the rest said they had not made up their mind.

Nguyen Qui Quy, deputy director of Quang Nam’s Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, said that 100 big companies in the province are looking for nearly 17,000 workers.

However, most workers seem to be looking to return to HCMC and other southern localities instead of staying in the province.

This is because since 20 years ago, when there were few industrial parks in Quang Nam, people have been leaving for the south to find jobs. Many have settled down there. They only returned to Quang Nam now to protect their lives, he said.

"People have got used to the life in the south, and they have high salaries. Citizens have the right to make their choices," Quy said.

But this also means that companies in the province’s nine industrial parks and 22 industrial clusters are having trouble recruiting people, he added.

Greener pastures

The central province of Thua Thien Hue is also experiencing similar difficulties in retaining its returnees.

Of 25,160 people of working age who returned, less than half (44.6 percent) want to stay back and work in the province, while the rest want to go back to the south or find work abroad.

Chairman Nguyen Van Phuong said it was a challenge to arrange enough jobs for over 25,000 people, even though it is the desire of provincial leaders. The province will continue to expand its industrial hubs and call for more investment to create more jobs in the future, he added.

Another central province, Nghe An, has seen 52,000 people of working age return during the fourth wave, and its labor department estimates that at least half of them want to return to the south for work.

The department said 84 companies in the province have registered to recruit just 29,000 workers.

In the south, the Mekong Delta region is recording the highest ratio of labor shortage at 30.6 percent, according to a recent study by the General Statistics Office.

Meanwhile, there is high recruitment demand in the southern localities that are already established industrial hubs.

Industries in dire need of workers include leather, textiles, garments and electrical equipment.

HCMC alone needs 57,000 workers in the last three months of this year in trading, garments, footwear, restaurants and hospitality establishments

Nguyen Si Dung, deputy head of the National Assembly Office, said the majority of workers will return to the south after local outbreaks are brought under control.

The recent reverse migration has shown the need for southern localities to improve the quality of life for migrant workers, providing them with housing and education for children, he said.

Hoang Van Cuong, vice principal of the National Economics University in Hanoi, said it would take a long time for southern localities to regain in full their pre-pandemic labor pool after the en masse departure of workers.

In the long run, the government needs to re-distribute labor nationwide to avoid the overcrowding in major cities where contagion risks are high, he added.

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