HCMC workers fear joblessness as year end's orders drop

By Le Tuyet   November 1, 2022 | 02:13 am PT
Many workers in HCMC are eking out a living with part-time jobs and unstable incomes, and worrying about the prospect of being jobless as the year draws to a close.

Tran Kim Thuy and her husband are long-time workers at Taiwanese plastic manufacturer Ta Shuan, which has a factory at the Tan Tao industrial park. In the past, the factory used to allow 12-hour shifts so workers earned decent incomes.

But over the past few months, when orders started to come in less often, the working hours were reduced as well.

"At first we began to have Saturdays off, then we got just 8-hour shifts and then, we got alternative days off," Thuy said, adding that the company only paid them basic wages for official hours at over VND5 million ($201.21) a month, and they only got 70% of the basic wage on days off.

Tran Kim Thuy prepares dinner for her family. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

Tran Kim Thuy prepares dinner for her family. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

The couple's income was too low to support the family, so both of them quit in September. But their troubles were just beginning. As the company failed to pay their social insurance contributions, they could not get unemployment support. At the age of 45, Thuy also found it difficult to find a new job as companies were not recruiting many people.

So she has had no choice but to work part-time, taking daily wages from a local plastic processing workshop. Her husband has found a job as a construction worker, but since project progress is slow, his income is unstable as well.

With both of them without full-time jobs, the family only earns around VND6 million a month, just enough to pay rent and fuel for their first-born son studying in college. Their other son, a 7th grader, lives with his grandmother in their hometown in the Mekong Delta, but Thuy and her husband have not been able to send any money to them for the past few months.

"I will try to stay in the city for another month or two to demand financial support from my company, then I will go back to my hometown. We will have no Tet this year," a forlorn Thuy said.

Many more workers are caught in circumstances similar to Thuy and her husband.

Around 100 workers of Ta Shuan will become jobless when the company temporarily shuts down two factories for the next three months starting this Saturday.

Workers of the Ta Shuan company gather in front of the factory as they heard about the factory closing down. Photo by VnExpress/Mai Chi

Workers of the Ta Shuan company gather in front of the factory after hearing that it was closing down. Photo by VnExpress/Mai Chi

Nguyen Thi Hang, 38, has been jobless for the past two months as her company was getting no orders. Hang used to work for South Korean textile firm Molax Vina. She has been working with the company for more than 10 years, and this year is the most challenging time it has faced, Hang said.

In mid-June, the company told its workers to stay off work and come back in July as there was nothing to produce. But when September came and the situation did not get much better, she and several of her co-workers decided to quit.

Hang’s salary was close to basic wages at VND5 million a month; and this was also the salary that the company used to pay for her social insurance. As such, her unemployment support only amounted to around VND2.5 million. Her husband, meanwhile, works at a plastic bag manufacturing factory and earns over VND7 million a month.

"Both my husband and I don’t dare to spend any penny on ourselves, because we still have two children and an elderly parent," Hang said.

Hang was one of over 10,440 people who filed for unemployment support this month at the HCMC Employment Service Center. The number of jobless people eligible for support over the past 10 months rose 26% year-on-year to 128,000, the center said.

Compared to earlier this year, unemployed workers are finding it more difficult to find new jobs. Nguyen Ngoc Tuyen, 30, said she has been unemployed over the past month as her company shut down. She said she has applied at other places in vain.

"Looking for a job appropriate for me during this time is truly difficult," said Tuyen, a mother of two. Since she already has experience in the food industry, she wants to find a job in the same field. About two weeks ago, a company said it would hire her, but just before her first day at work, its HR called and said the company had suspended operations and there was no plan for it to operate again. Several other workers were also caught in the same situation, forcing them to take up part-time jobs or online sales.

Workers sign up for unemployment support at the HCMC Employment Service Center. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

Workers sign up for unemployment support at the HCMC Employment Service Center. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

Businesses in trouble

Tran Viet Anh, deputy chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Union of Business Associations, said that other than businesses producing essential goods like food or household appliances with stable numbers of orders, firms in many other industries were in trouble. Some industries considered to be more "luxurious", like furniture or clothes have seen reduced demand while the electronics industry lacks materials for production, he added.

Businesses in the leather industry saw a 30% drop in the number of orders in the fourth quarter, and its export turnover has also been reducing since September, according to the Vietnam Leather, Footwear and Handbag Association.

"Industry in the red typically employ large numbers of workers and this is a challenge for businesses," he said, adding that for many factories, workers would remain their foremost priority. As such, they will try to keep their workers and wait for the market to recover, he said.

Nguyen Thanh Do, head of legal policy at the HCMC Federation of Labor, said they have deployed personnel to track the employment situation of workers, as well as payment of salaries and bonuses at companies, especially those that are in trouble due to a lack of orders, so that support measures could be devised.

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