Vietnamese labor export shifts towards Europe

By Le Tuyet   April 5, 2024 | 03:02 pm PT
As many European countries attempt to diversify professions and age groups, Vietnamese laborers are shifting direction in the context of traditional markets losing their appeal.

Intending to work abroad in his final year of college, Bui Phan Hoai Vu, 24, decided to choose Germany after exploring various markets two years ago.

Vu said countries that have long attracted Vietnamese workers like Japan and South Korea are no longer appealing, while the procedures are too complicated.

"I chose to go to Germany, with the initial cost of VND150 million (US$6,250), which is equivalent to other countries," he said.

Besides the nursing profession deployed by the Overseas Labor Management Bureau under the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Affairs, no company has been licensed to send workers to Germany.

Therefore, Vu chose to study culinary arts, with 70% of the time spent practicing at restaurants, and the rest attending school without any fees.

The total weekly time for learning and practicing is not more than 40 hours. The monthly wage working at the restaurant is 1,000 euros (US$1,084).

After paying taxes, social insurance, Vu receives 800 euros. Deducting food and accommodation costs of 500 euros, he still manages to save some money. Every month, he sends VND3-5 million ($120-200) back to his family in Vietnam.

Vu said compared to the minimum monthly wage of 2,400-2,600 euros in Germany, the income of vocational study workers is quite low.

"However, this period only lasts for two years. Upon graduation, with a diploma, I will become an official worker, enjoying a much higher salary," said Vu.

Instead of taking the vocational study route to find work opportunities in Germany like Vu, many choose European countries that have official labor recruitment cooperation with Vietnam such as Russia, Romania, Poland, and Hungary to work.

Nguyen Duc Nam, Chairman of Sona International Manpower Supply & Trading JSC, said that the traditional markets of his company are Japan and South Korea. However, for several years now, the company has been seeking contracts in Europe.

"While Japan limits the age for laborers and procedures to go to work in South Korea are complicated, some European countries like Romania are quite easy-going," he said. "General laborers, without high skill requirements, just need to be of eligible age and in good health to have opportunities."

Workers join a metal cutting and welding practice classes organized by Sona International Manpower Supply & Trading JSC to get ready for working in Lithuania and Rumania. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

Workers join a metal cutting and welding practice class organized by Sona International Manpower Supply & Trading JSC to get ready for working in Lithuania and Rumania. Photo by VnExpress/An Phuong

Each year, the company sends 200-300 workers to several European countries. The salary depends on the profession. The cost of sending workers abroad is not more than one month's salary under the contract for each year of work, excluding language and vocational training fees, he added.

Nguyen Thi Huong, who oversees recruitment at Traco labor export company in HCMC, said that in the past 2-3 years, workers have tended to look for jobs in Europe instead of Japan.

"The reason is the deep depreciation of the yen, and the costs in Japan are increasing. Meanwhile, many European countries are thirsty for manpower, so the policy to attract immigrant workers has changed a lot," Huong said.

For example, to attract skilled labor, the German government has made it possible for foreigners to be naturalized after only five years, instead of eight as before.

At the same time, foreigners also enjoy equal work and welfare benefits as locals. For Vietnam, the labor ministries of the two countries signed an MOU in labor and employment in January, opening even more cooperation opportunities.

According to the Overseas Labor Management Department, some Vietnamese companies are sending workers to more than 10 European countries. Depending on the needs of the host country, workers will have different jobs and salaries. Currently, Romania is the country that receives the most Vietnamese workers with over 4,000 people, 90% of whom work in the construction and industrial sectors.

The lowest salary for general workers is $650 per month, and for those with skills, $800-1,000.

Companies in Russia have demands to recruit factory workers, food processors, and industrial machine operators, with the average monthly income at $500-700 for laborers to work eight hours per day and 22 days per month, excluding overtime.

Similarly, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland also need skilled general workers in the industrial and agricultural sectors. The basic salary ranges from $500-750 per month.

For the European market, most workers are provided with accommodation and travel expenses. Round-trip flight tickets at the beginning and end of the contract are covered by the employers.

Contracts last for two or three years and can be extended.

Nguyen Nhu Tuan, Deputy Director of the Information and Communication Department of the Overseas Labor Management Department, believes that Europe is an attractive destination for Vietnamese workers thanks to its modern living environment, good income and working conditions, and the possibility to stay and work for a relatively long time.

"However, when working in Europe, workers will face issues like colder weather, less work in winter, and larger cultural differences compared to Asian markets," Tuan said."In addition, Vietnamese must compete with workers from other countries within the European region, as well as workers from developing countries at the same level."

Tuan added that companies sending workers to work in Europe are facing a major challenge of workers running away to a third country. Therefore, the selection of labor for export must be very strict.

"Conversely, workers wanting to go to Europe easily turn to intermediary groups and brokers with big promises, and are easily deceived," Tuan added.

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