Parents increasingly willing to allow kids to work part-time during vacations

By Quynh Nguyen, Minh Duc   July 22, 2022 | 12:32 am PT
Parents increasingly willing to allow kids to work part-time during vacations
An employee cleans up the table at a coffee shop in Hanoi in October 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Tung Dinh
Ngoc Anh, 16, wraps up her shift at a coffee shop at 10:30 p.m. after washing cups and cleaning and rearranging the tables and chairs.

Anh's mother, Bich Mai, is waiting outside.

"I advised my daughter to work the morning shift, but that shift was full, so she has to work in the evening," the 37-year-old from Hanoi’s Cau Giay District says.

"Since we fear it's not safe for her to travel alone at night, my husband and I take turns picking her up."

Anh, a 10th grader, has been working as a waitress from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at a cafe on Hoang Cau Street in Dong Da District for more than a month, earning VND18,000 (US$0.77) an hour.

After noticing that many of her classmates were also working part-time summer jobs, she too wanted to do it.

She found the job herself through recruitment groups on social media.

Hundreds of online groups are currently posting restaurant, cafe, sales, telesales, parking, delivery, and other job vacancies.

In one group with nearly 270,000 members, there are more than 30 job postings every day, attracting a lot of attention from people between the ages of 16 and 19.

Anh says she wanted to quit right on the first day after being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work, constantly carrying drinks and cleaning dishes and being chastised by customers for slow service.

She gradually adapted after the first week and found herself learning and improving her communication and customer service skills and making new friends.

"That is why I encourage my children to work part-time rather than stay at home," Mai explains.

"Despite knowing that they will have to work hard, earn little money and possibly take risks, but the lessons learned will be invaluable."

Fearing that her 16-year-old daughter, Phuong Chi, would be bullied or pushed around at a regular part-time job, Cong Thi Hanh, 48, of Tay Ho District proposed that her daughter should work as a part-time domestic help at the beginning of summer and the latter agreed.

Hanh says: "It's not like I want her to work to support the family. I do want her to work to learn more life skills and learn to value money."

Chi works two days a week, washing dishes, cleaning furniture and collecting and folding clothes, which takes two to three hours.

She gets paid VND60,000 a day, and her parents give her another VND60,000 as a form of encouragement, enabling her to earn VND960,000 a month.

Chi says: "Beside working at my part-time job, I also help my mother with housework and chores. I am also more confident in my communication and value hard work."

Hanh has noticed a change in her daughter's thinking and behavior.

Phuong Chi washes dishes at her home in Hanois Tay Ho District on July 16, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Duc

Phuong Chi washes dishes at her home in Hanoi's Tay Ho District on July 16, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Duc

"However, not all parents are willing to let their kids go out into the real world when they are below 18," educationist Dr Vu Thu Huong says.

But the skills and experience children learn from working part-time help them mature, better understand the value of money and learn how to spend wisely, he says.

The number of parents who allow their children to work part-time is still small but has been growing in the last 10 years.

Many still despise the stereotype that only money-grubbing parents force their children to work early.

"However, in other countries, the practice of letting young children work part-time during summer vacation has long existed and thrived," Huong points out.

According to a study published last month by Pew Research Center using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, more than six million American teenagers, or 36.6 percent of the population, worked part-time in the summer of 2021, "marking the highest teen summer employment rate since 2008."

The average rate of youths aged 18-19 with a paying job for at least part of last summer was 47.1 percent, while in the 16-17 age group it was 26.9 percent.

The industries leading the recruitment of young people were accommodation and food services.

There are no statistics in Vietnam on the number of students working part-time during summer vacations, but empirical evidence shows parents are becoming more open to this.

A survey of 100 families with children aged 13 to 18 done by VnExpress on July 16 found that 84 percent agreed to send their children to work and only 16 percent were opposed.

Of them 63.9 percent of families wanted their children to work in jobs requiring intellectual skills such as teaching.

The main expectation of parents from the part-time jobs was that their children would gain life skills and experience. It was followed by a desire to learn the value of money, and only a small proportion (6.2 percent) expected their children to increase their income.

Turning a deaf ear to talk that he exploited his daughter by making her work at an early age and she missed out on her childhood, Hoang Phong of Hanoi’s Hai Ba Trung District allowed Minh Hang to do a part-time job helping out and running errands at an English language center 10 years ago when she was just 12.

Hang initially helped teachers clean up classrooms before they started their lessons. But she gradually also acquired teaching experience, and two summers later was a teaching assistant for elementary students.

Subsequently she went on to become involved with sex education classes run by NGOs until she was 22.

Her father says: "Hang learned how to manage money and disliked waste from the day she started to work. She learned how to spend her time wisely and think more maturely."

Hang went on to apply for a full scholarship in Canada with her 10 years’ experience working part-time at educational centers.

She says: "Jobs that paid only a few hundred thousand dong a month became stepping stones for me to develop myself. I have never regretted applying for summer part-time jobs early."

Dr Nguyen Tung Lam, chairman of the Hanoi Educational Psychology Association, also has a word of caution about sending children to work early, saying they may become spendthrifts or neglect studies and focus solely on making money.

Huy Hoang, 14, of Hai Phong Province started working in a factory, packing goods. He earned around VND2.5 million a month, and his mother, Kim Lien, did not interfere with how he spent the money. In the event, he started spending it on his friends and became their idol.

After being constantly lionized by them, he became eager to earn money. Lien later discovered he had been sneaking to the factory to work during school time, causing his grades to drop.

"Perhaps I was wrong in the first place to let him spend his money as he pleased," she says with a sigh.

Ngoc Anh will stop working at the coffee shop in early August to focus on school.

"If I have some spare time, I plan to [do] a part-time job."

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