Vietnam beckons diaspora with career options

By Xanh Le   November 9, 2023 | 03:27 pm PT
Vietnam beckons diaspora with career options
Downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
After working for three years in the U.S. and completing a master’s degree in Germany, 31-year-old American John Vu decided to look for work in his parents’ country of origin, Vietnam.

He says: "I wanted to find opportunities in Vietnam though many people, including my parents, questioned my decision."

He also sees Vietnamese in the U.S. and Germany looking to return home after completing their studies to work for a company or start a business.

Loc Nguyen, who lost nearly US$1 million he invested in a restaurant in HCMC in 2001, returned to Vietnam in 2021 to open a new restaurant chain as he saw big growth opportunities.

"In Vietnam you can open three or four restaurants for the cost of one in the U.S. Many people are willing to spend big on food," he says.

More and more Vietnamese are returning to Vietnam to work from overseas, attracted by the opportunities in the rapidly developing country where quality talent is greatly sought after.

A survey in July by U.K. recruitment firm Robert Walters of nearly 500 Vietnamese workers in Southeast Asian countries found that 71% were considering returning home to work within the next two years.

The ratio was higher than for the three other countries surveyed: Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore.

Though for long Vietnamese have been looking for opportunities to emigrate in search of economic opportunities, there is a recent trend of people returning to the country after living overseas as they see the enormous career opportunities here.

Thang Nguyen, CEO of recruitment company Aloha Consultant Group, says the number of Vietnamese-origin people returning to the country has been rising since 2020, especially those in the technology, consulting and banking-finance sectors.

He says a few decades ago most big companies preferred to recruit foreigners, but in the last five years they have been looking for people who understand the Vietnamese culture and speak the language, especially in the tech and banking sectors.

The Robert Walters survey also found that 66% of the Vietnamese respondents trusted the stability of their country’s economy and thought the government’s recent encouraging policies on entrepreneurship were added perks.

The low cost of living in Vietnam was another perk, 44% said.

Vu says there is a lot of potential for career development in Vietnam, one of the main reasons for him to work in the country.

"In the U.S. I was a small fish in a big pool, but in Vietnam, with my experience, I can be considered a big fish."

The fact that he knows the language and culture gives him an advantage in working in Vietnam.

Echoing him, Thang says people aged 40-45 with overseas work experience can get senior positions in Vietnam while in other countries they can only hope to be mid-level managers.

Vietnam is a large market with its population of around 100 million, has many foreign companies, and is now very different from 10 or 20 years ago, he says.

Many companies such as Masan, Vingroup and Techcombank want to recruit Vietnamese as consultants or managers to speed up growth, he adds.

The poll found 62% of respondents saying they had an emotional and cultural attachment to Vietnam and so wanted to work and live there.

Vietnamese-American movie critic Le Nguyen, 30, is one of them.

He says he has chosen to work in Vietnam despite a lower income because he wants to promote its culture.

"Many people in the U.S. are not even aware of Vietnam’s cinema industry, and that scares me. To them Vietnam remains a place of war and jungle."

He says he has taken the responsibility of showing the world what Vietnam is.

Thang says the reverse brain drain will help improve the job market quality and develop higher-value products and services.

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