70 percent of workers rent rooms

By Hong Chieu   October 14, 2021 | 03:32 am PT
Over 1.7 million workers in Vietnam are living in boarding houses in an average space per capita of less than three square meters.

Industrial hubs across the country, especially Ho Chi Minh City, its neighbor Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces, Hanoi and its neighbors Bac Ninh and Bac Giang provinces, have in recent years attracted millions of migrant workers.

More than 1.7 million of these workers, or 70 percent of the total, earn less than VND10 million ($440) per month and currently squeeze themselves and their families into small rented rooms built and operated by local landlords, said Khuat Van Quy, deputy head of the Department of Familial Affairs under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

"Migrant workers have to live in very narrow rented rooms that provide living space of only two-three square meters per person," he told a Tuesday meeting in Hanoi.

A group of workers has dinner at a rented room in Hanoi, August 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

A group of migrant construction workers has dinner at a rented room in Hanoi, August 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

In most cases, workers have to spend almost all day working aside from taking overtime shifts and as a result, do not have much time to take care of their family, let alone enjoy themselves.

For that reason, 40 percent of workers have to send their children back to their hometown to be cared for by relatives while nearly 22 percent are enrolling their kids at private kindergartens near home.

Quy added the number of workers is likely to "increase rapidly" in the coming years, but that development for industrial zones has not taken into account the need for accommodation for migrant workers.

On the other hand, current policies have yet to encourage all economic sectors to participate in building housing for workers, especially in terms of investment capital and land.

He proposed provinces and cities determine the actual demand on accommodation of migrant workers and make plans on building housing to sell to workers at preferential prices and have these projects include kindergartens, preschools.

"Only in this way can localities retain workers," he said.

According to a survey by the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, the lack of housing and medical examination is a pressing concerns among workers.

In addition, workers usually face termination of labor contracts at the age of 35-40 aside from the permanent risks of occupational diseases and accidents.

A worker family at their rented room in HCMC, August 2021. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

A migrants family at their rented room in HCMC, August 2021. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

The General Statistics Office of Vietnam said earlier this week about 1.3 million laborers had returned to their hometowns between July and Sept. 15 under pandemic impacts, and the statistics have not included tens of thousands of people leaving for their hometowns in the countryside since early October, when HCMC and its neighboring industrial provinces eased Covid-19 restrictions.

In most cases, migrant workers returning home explained they had all run out of money after losing their jobs due to the Covid-19 outbreak, and that now home was their safest bet. Besides, they are all afraid of yet another outbreak if restrictions are loosened, which means they would continue to be stuck in their small rented rooms under strict social distancing, fearing the pandemic and receiving zero income.

Ngo Duy Hieu, deputy chairman of the labor general confederation, said it is not easy to lure workers back to industrial hubs, posing a threat of labor shortage now Vietnam is gradually reopening socio-economic activities post lockdown.

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