Men with white collar qualifications make blue collar choices as shippers

By Hoang Nguyen   November 16, 2022 | 12:24 am PT
Men with white collar qualifications make blue collar choices as shippers
A shipper in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hang
A shipper surprised everyone by speaking to novelist Marc Levy in fluent French without the help of a translator at a readers’ meeting in HCMC with the author last week.

The video of Huynh Huu Phuoc, 25, a student at the HCMC University of Education, speaking to Levy quickly went viral on social media.

When it came to light that besides French, Phuoc was also fluent in English, Chinese and Japanese, many people wondered why he chose to be a shipper and not a translator, given his language skills.

"Why do you want to be a shipper when you’re this good?" is a question that Phuoc hears often. Phuoc said he chose this job because the income was good and allowed the flexibility that gave him more time to do other stuff that he liked, like learning new things and further improving his knowledge.

Like Phuoc, many capable young people are choosing to be shippers or drivers for ride-hailing apps despite possessing high academic qualifications for similar reasons – decent income, flexibility and hassle-free access to jobs.

A recent survey of 270 people found most, 97.3%, of shippers and ride-hailing drivers were men. It found 36.6% of shippers had a high level of education and that this percentage among ride-hailing drivers was 20.65%.

Pham Tuan Nghia, 25, who works as a shipper and a driver, said he has graduated with a bachelor's degree in engineering from the Hanoi University of Science and Technology and even got a chance to work in Japan as part of the school’s program.

However, he chose to be a shipper because the job gave him a stable monthly income without requiring special skills and extensive experience.

"I can earn around VND20 million ($807) or more a month from this job. I could’ve gone to Japan but I prefer to stay here because I’m not that good at Japanese and living there is so expensive. Also, to be a high-paid engineer, I need at least five years of experience," Nghia said. "I can’t live with a salary for beginners since I also have to send money home every month to support my family."

Le Thu Huyen, a researcher at the Institute of Labor Science and Social Affiars, said the tendency to choose gigs such as drivers, shippers, YouTubers and bloggers was becoming more popular because they offered flexible hours and high incomes.

However, she pointed out that nearly 80% of such workers don’t have a labor contract; and just 2% have a proper contract, which raises concerns about labor rights and social security.

"Ensuring labor rights and social security is the government's responsibility. Those who do these gigs also want to be protected against risks like health problems and work accidents," Huyen told Tuoi Tre newspaper.

She said people like drivers or shippers need to be protected by the law on wages, the right to participate in social insurance and unemployment insurance.

Besides researching appropriate policies, professional agencies need to increase the responsibilities of ride-hailing service providers to ensure the welfare of their workers in all aspects, she added.

Vu Minh Tien, director of the Institute of Labor and Trade Unions, said choosing a career with a high income was a legitimate right and this was a new trend.

In order to protect the benefits of drivers, agencies should study and suggest policies to encourage tech service companies such as Grab, Be and Gojek to support their associate drivers and shippers to participate in social and health insurance schemes, Tien said.

André Gama, a senior expert with the International Labor Organization (ILO), said that in the UK, drivers are declared by Uber as paid workers and insured.

Gama recommended that the government invests in social protection and insurance support for workers and considers it a long-term investment to reduce damage caused by health problems and job loss.

Tuan Anh said that he chose to be a shipper because he got married early and had to take care of his family. But he did not intend to stay with this job for long.

"For me, this is just a temporary job. I want to find jobs in sales or advertising and study for a master's degree in the future."

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