90% of Vietnamese migrant workers are low-skilled: expert

By Hong Chieu   August 17, 2022 | 04:00 am PT
90% of Vietnamese migrant workers are low-skilled: expert
A man (L) looks for jobs in Hanoi after returning from working in South Korea, July 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Hong Chieu
The vast majority of Vietnamese workers abroad are low-skilled, driving the future need for more high-skilled labor, experts told a Tuesday conference.

The Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs said Vietnam began to export workers in the 1980s, and by today, over 100,000 travel abroad annually.

Vietnamese workers are now present in 40 countries and territories and work in over 30 fields, bringing home over $3 billion a year, the ministry added.

Nguyen Xuan Lanh, deputy director of Esuhai in Ho Chi Minh City, which has spent over a decade sending Vietnamese workers to Japan, said 90% of Vietnamese workers abroad are low-skilled and have limited expertise and language capabilities. Exporting workers has helped solve employment demand among poor laborers, but has not particularly cared about worker groups adopting the knowledge and skill sets of a foreign work environment, like students or apprentices.

Society still regards migrant workers as those who are poor and unemployed, Lanh added. As many as 80% of migrant workers have the sole aim of making money, not gaining the knowledge and skills for future career development, he said. If they retain that same mindset, they would find it difficult to find new jobs once they return to Vietnam, or even become unemployed.

"A local leader once asked me how to solve the employment problems for Vietnamese migrant workers who return home," Lanh said, highlighting the hiring and training process for workers before sending them abroad. If done right, migrant workers can both earn money and gain experience during their time abroad, and once they return to Vietnam, they would be able to look for jobs.

In the long run, Lanh said the government should expand the fields of work for migrant workers, allowing more high-skilled laborers to travel abroad. These workers would be Vietnam’s main driving force to gain access to foreign innovations and use what they learn to serve their country.

Agreeing with Lanh, Nguyen Luong Trao, former chairman of the Vietnam Association of Manpower Supply, said it is time to increase the percentage of high-skilled migrant workers.

Nguyen Dinh Quoc Cuong, from the Vietnam National University in HCMC, said there are four existing issues with sending Vietnamese workers abroad. They include fraud committed by middle-man companies, the aversion of hiring low-skilled workers, human trafficking and workers trying to illegally stay abroad.

Cuong said Vietnam should build a national database on workers and experts abroad to alleviate the issues. The labor ministry needs to play a key role and request companies and unions to form their own databases and integrate them with the government’s, he added.

In defense of migrant workers, Vu Minh Tien from the Institute of Workers and Trade Unions said migrant workers have few people to rely on abroad and so often come together to seek support from each other. They find it difficult to integrate in a new work environment, and may face discrimination when it comes to communication and business, even for those who've been abroad for three to four years, he added.

Tien said there needs to be cooperation between unions in Vietnam and abroad, creating communication points in case migrant workers get in trouble.

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