New Year hangover cuts into the pockets of Saigon businesses

By Ha Thanh   February 14, 2017 | 02:35 am PT
New Year hangover cuts into the pockets of Saigon businesses
Labor retention has historically been a headache for many local businesses. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen
Some workers have taken three weeks off while the official holiday lasted seven days.

Companies in Vietnam are still waiting for their employees to return to work after the country’s long Lunar New Year holiday.

Every year, migrant workers leave major cities across the country and travel home for family reunions during the Tet celebrations. The problem for companies, particularly those in the services sector, is that their employees often don't return to work even when the break is long over.

In Vietnam, companies tend to give year-end bonuses ahead of the holiday, which this year started on January 26 and ran through February 2. Many workers, after bagging their bonuses, just went to take a long holiday at home.

Hung, a 27-year-old migrant laborer at a food processing factory in Ho Chi Minh City, said he took 20 days off work to visit his family this year.

He said he used the break to go traveling and blamed the 400 kilometers between Ho Chi Minh City and his home in the coastal province of Phu Yen as the main reason for his delay.

“Actually, I was only meant to take seven days off work [for Tet]. When the holiday is longer I have more time to visit my relatives and go traveling with my family, then I go back to work more motivated and productive,” Hung explained.

Ngoc, a real estate broker in Ho Chi Minh City, took 21 days off from work with a promise that she would not take a single day off until the end of the third quarter.

A restaurant owner in District 5 said only 60 percent of his staff had shown up after the holiday. A third of his employees didn’t get back to work until 15 days after Tet and 10 percent took a three-week vacation.

“Our restaurant is always slow at this time of year because not enough employees return to work. I even have to send out warnings threatening pay cuts and lay-offs,” said the restaurant owner.

Labor retention has long been a headache for local businesses in major cities that rely on a large number of migrant workers. Having to scramble for staff can increase the cost of doing business and badly hurt their profits.

Many businesses just have to accept the long holiday as a problem they must live with, said an executive at an investment consulting firm in District 1.

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