Category Archives: Vietnam

Number of Vietnamese workers going abroad falls by 40 pct in H1

Vietnam sent 33,500 guest workers overseas in the first half, a 40 percent year-on-year decline due to travel restrictions to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The country has suspended all international flights since March 25, and many other countries too have also closed their borders.

Nguyen Gia Liem, deputy head of the Department of Overseas Labor, said many businesses in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea, the largest markets for Vietnamese labor, are seeking to hire Vietnamese workers to enable a resumption of operations, Vietnam News Agency reported.

They have assured they can meet local quarantine and monitoring requirements.

At a government meeting last week Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said guest workers could be sent abroad if they are accepted. Vietnam seeks to send 130,000 workers overseas in 2020.

According to statistics from the ministry, over 5,000 workers have returned home from abroad after many businesses were forced to lay off workers. Many flights have been organized in recent months to bring Vietnamese workers and students back from overseas.

More than 147,000 workers went abroad last year, up 3.2 percent from the previous year.

According to the International Organization for Migration, nearly 100,000 Vietnamese leave the country each year to live in more developed nations.

Vietnamese workers go abroad mainly for labor-intensive and low-skilled jobs. The country has a workforce of around 50 million.

Written by Nguyen Quy
Source: Vietnam Express
Published on 3 July 2020

440 Vietnamese fly home from Singapore, Malaysia, Africa to evade coronavirus

Vietnamese authorities repatriated 440 citizens stuck in Singapore, Malaysia, and some African countries over the past few days amid Covid-19 complications.

A Vietnam Airlines flight landed at Can Tho International Airport in the Mekong Delta on Saturday, returning 310 Vietnamese passengers stuck in Singapore.

Passengers included the elderly, youth under 18, people suffering illnesses and workers or tourists whose visas had expired, according to a Vietnam Foreign Ministry release. They were sent to quarantine camps in Ben Tre and An Giang provinces in the Mekong Delta.

This is also the third repatriation flight from Singapore. In April and May, Vietnam also brought home over 500 citizens from the island state.

Singapore is now the second hardest hit country by Covid-19 in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, with over 43,000 infections and 26 deaths.

On Thursday, the national flag carrier returned 130 Vietnamese stuck in Malaysia and African countries such as Nigeria and Cameroon.

90 Vietnamese citizens from Nigeria and Cameroon were taken to Lagos where they boarded a flight operated by the Ethiopian flag carrier bound for Kuala Lumpur, and later brought home alongside 40 Vietnamese workers stranded in Malaysia.

Upon arrival at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, all passengers received a health examination and went into quarantine to prevent community-associated infection.

Vietnam has reported 355 infections so far, with 330 having recovered after treatment. The country has gone 72 days without community transmission of the virus.

In the last few months, several special flights organized by the government have repatriated thousands of Vietnamese from several countries including France, India, Japan, Russia, the UAE and the U.S., as also other Southeast Asian countries. Passengers have paid their own fares.

More such flights are expected to repatriate Vietnamese citizens wanting to return home to avoid facing the Covid-19 pandemic elsewhere.

The pandemic has hit over 210 countries and territories, with more than 500,500 deaths reported so far.

Written by Nguyen Quy
Source: Vietnam Express
Published on 28 June 2020

Mass unemployment the new normal in SE Asia

A new International Labor Organization report suggests that more than one in six young people worldwide has stopped working since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, while the rest have seen their working hours cut by almost a quarter.

In Southeast Asia, unemployment rates have spiked to almost unprecedented levels because of the pandemic, which has devastated economies to varying degrees. Until now, official unemployment rates in the region have been enviably low.

Before 2020, Cambodia’s unemployment rates had barely risen above the 2% mark since the early 1990s, while Vietnam’s had also been consistently at less than 2%, according to data from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). For the last decade, Thailand’s jobless rate has hovered around 0.6%.

But that has all suddenly changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In Laos, where the formal unemployment rate was around 0.7% last year, joblessness has recently spiked to around 25%, the Vientiane Times, a local newspaper, reported this month.

Unemployment rates have risen to a ten-year high in Vietnam, where the pandemic has cost nearly five million Vietnamese workers their jobs in just the first quarter of this year, according to the country’s General Statistics Office. Experts predict that rate will climb higher when figures for the more economically-debilitating second quarter are released.

In Thailand, which is projected to suffer the worst economic contraction than any Southeast Asia state, due largely to its high dependence on global tourism, reports suggest the unemployment rate could climb to almost 25% if the economic crisis lasts for several more months.

An ILO report from the end of April predicted that six million workers would lose their jobs in Thailand’s virus-hit tourism industry, though the figure could be even higher, analysts say.

“We expect the impact on the economy to drag on for quite a while, not only three months but possibly six or nine months,” Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha reportedly said earlier this month.

The impact on employment could last much longer, however, according to the ILO.

“The Covid-19 economic crisis is hitting young people – especially women – harder and faster than any other group,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said in a statement. “If we do not take significant and immediate action to improve their situation, the legacy of the virus could be with us for decades.”

The percentage of work hours lost in the second quarter in Southeast Asia was 10%, compared to 10.7% globally, the ILO report estimated.

In many ways, however, Southeast Asia’s official unemployment rates don’t tell the full picture. That’s especially true in mainland Southeast Asia, where only a small portion of the workforce is employed in the formal economy where workers are contracted by registered businesses and paid regular wages.

Instead, more than half of workers in most regional states toil in the informal sector, where they are paid day wages, have unsecured contracts, or are employed in family-run businesses or self-employed.

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In 2018, the percentage of Cambodia’s workforce considered to be in “vulnerable employment” was 50.8%, according to the UNDP. Thailand was slightly less at 47.3%, but in Vietnam it was 54.5%, in Myanmar 59.5%, and in Laos around 80%.

Across the Asia-Pacific region, 84.4% of youths, aged between 15 and 24, work in informal employment, compared to 68.6% of adults, according to the ILO.

During usual cyclical economic downturns, the informal sector compensates for the loss of jobs in the formal one. The unemployed can return to work on family farms, head abroad to find jobs, or seek to create their own businesses.

But the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the informal sector especially hard. Lockdowns have hurt market vendors and small-scale traders, while the decline of formal tourism and manufacturing has dented the informal businesses that operate around these sectors, from delivery drivers to street-side vendors.

Moreover, numerous reports note that informal workers, such as market vendors, domestic workers and delivery drivers, are most at risk of infection.

“Given that they have no savings or other financial cushion, most owners of informal enterprises may have no choice but to use their negligible business capital for consumption,” reads an ILO report from this month entitled “COVID-19 crisis and the informal economy.”

“As a result, they may be forced to close their informal business temporarily or permanently, leading to job losses and a surge in poverty,” it added.

A World Bank report from April, entitled “East Asia and Pacific In The Times Of Covid-19,” advised that “safety nets should be broadened in the form of enhanced unemployment insurance with extended duration, increased benefits, and relaxed eligibility.”

In addition,” it went on, “governments should design schemes to pay for sick and family leave to allow affected workers or their caregivers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs during the pandemic.”

For the most part, mainland Southeast Asian governments have done so. The Vietnamese and Thai governments have announced cash handouts for those rendered jobless by the pandemic.

Yet, for the most part, financial relief is mainly offered to formal sector workers.

In Cambodia, for instance, state relief is only provided to workers laid-off or furloughed in the vital garment manufacturing and tourism sectors, and only to those who had work for businesses formally registered with ministries, which many aren’t.

Southeast Asia’s vast number of migrant workers, most of whom head to Thailand, the largest recipient of migrant workers, have also felt the pinch.

Bangkok at first offered financial support only to Thai citizens who lost income due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the end of April, its Social Security Office finally agreed to pay unemployed migrant workers 62% of their daily wage for up to 90 days, though this is only available to the 2.7 million formally registered migrant workers in the country. A large proportion, however, worked informally and weren’t registered.

Moreover, many of these migrants returned to their home countries when the coronavirus crisis began in Southeast Asia in March, and so are ineligible to receive financial assistance from the Thai government.

There are also complaints about the actual process of applying and receiving state entitlements by the newly unemployed.

In Thailand, there has been criticism that it’s hard to apply for new unemployment benefits, and that the money is slow to arrive. It’s a similar problem in other regional countries, where bureaucracy typically moves slowly and where IT systems are often rudimentary.

There are more prosaic issues. To access government relief and unemployment benefits, people need bank accounts to receive the deposits. Yet a report last year from accounting firm KPMG found that only 27% of Southeast Asians have an active account.

Mass unemployment, moreover, will inevitably accentuate what were already dire debt problems in certain countries.

Thailand’s household debt to income ratio was 148.8% last year. In Cambodia, the average size of a microfinance loan, $3,800, is twice the nation’s GDP per capita. That’s sparked a public debate about whether the microfinance industry has effectively become legal loan sharking.

With mounting unemployment and collapsing economies, most people are already cutting back on expenses and trying to save whatever earnings they can muster.

That means there is less money circulating around domestic economies, either in the form of household consumption or business investment, that could spur new economic activity and create new jobs.

Nomura, a Japan-based analytics group, recently opined that unemployment rates in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand will be higher than they were during the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, and that official rates will remain higher than pre-coronavirus levels once shutdowns end across the region.

“The resulting impact on incomes will act as a drag on demand for discretionary goods and services, and could also trigger indirect effects such as higher delinquencies on unsecured consumer loans and lower housing demand,” it said.

Meanwhile, World Bank and International Monetary Fund forecasts do not predict quick “V-shaped” recoveries in Southeast Asia, with most economies only expected to return to pre-pandemic levels of GDP growth in 2022.

That means the region’s sudden and unusually high rates of unemployment will linger and pinch for years, not months.

Written by David Hutt
Source: Asia Times
Published on 29 May 2020

243 pregnant Vietnamese women repatriated from Taiwan

243 pregnant women, some of them close to their due dates, were among 343 Vietnamese citizens repatriated from Taiwan Friday.

Apart from the pregnant women, there were some elderly passengers, young children and a seriously ill patient, authorities said.

The Vietnam Airlines flight VN579, organized specially to repatriate Vietnamese citizens, landed at the Da Nang International Airport at 4:40 p.m.

All passengers had undergone medical checks before boarding and wore face masks throughout the flight. They submitted health declarations and were transferred to quarantine facilities in the central province of Quang Nam on arrival. Their samples have been taken for testing.

According to Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center, it was the first repatriation of Vietnamese from Taiwan since Vietnam suspended all international flights on March 22.

One of the repatriated passengers is suffering from pancreatic cancer. The passenger will be transferred to a local hospital for isolation and cancer treatment, said Tran Van Kiem, director of Quang Nam Center for Disease Control.

Nguyen Duc Hoang, deputy director of Thang Binh District’s medical center, said some of the 243 pregnant women on the flight were near their due dates. Therefore, the center has prepared emergency ambulances and set up an obstetrics emergency team in case they give birth in the quarantine area.

On the way to Taiwan, the flight carried a number of Taiwanese citizens and Vietnamese with Taiwan residency who had been stranded in Vietnam.

In the last few months, several special flights have repatriated thousands of Vietnamese from several countries including Canada, France, Japan, Russia, the UAE and the U.S., and other Southeast Asian countries. Passengers paid their own fares.

Vietnam has gone 43 days without community transmission of Covid-19. Of the 328 infections recorded so far, 49 are active, the rest having recovered. There has been no death recorded so far.

Taiwan has confirmed 442 infection cases and reported seven deaths.

Written by Nguyen Quy
Source: VN Express
Published on 30 May 2020

Vietnam repatriates 344 citizens from Singapore

A Vietnam Airlines flight Sunday repatriated 344 Vietnamese citizens from Singapore, currently the biggest Covid-19 hotspot in Southeast Asia.

Flight VN650 flight landed at the Mekong Delta’s Can Tho airport Sunday afternoon, with passengers including pregnant women, the elderly, youth under 18, people suffering illnesses and workers or tourists whose visas had expired, according to a Vietnam Foreign Ministry release.

This is the second repatriation flight from Singapore, after the first on April 24 that brought home over 200 Vietnamese citizens.

After making their health declarations, all passengers were taken to centralized quarantine facilities in Can Tho City and the neighboring provinces of Hau Giang and Vinh Long, where they will be tested for the novel coronavirus.

Singapore is now the Southeast Asian nation hit hardest by Covid-19, with over 34,000 infections and 23 deaths. The vast majority of the cases are work permit holders residing in foreign worker dormitories.

The island state had been praised in March as a shining example of how to handle the new virus. The World Health Organization pointed out that Singapore’s aggressive contact tracing had allowed it to quickly identify and isolate new cases.

However, less than one month later, Singapore suffered a second wave of infection, and the vast majority of new cases were detected in the overcrowded dormitories that house more than 300,000 of Singapore’s roughly one million immigrant workers.

On Saturday, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had hailed Vietnam’s success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic and thanked the nation for lending a helping hand.

In the last few months, several special flights have repatriated thousands of Vietnamese from several countries including Canada, France, Japan, Russia, the UAE and the U.S., and other Southeast Asian countries. Passengers have paid their own fares.

Vietnam has gone 45 days without community transmission of Covid-19. It has reported 328 infections without any deaths, of whom 279 have recovered, leaving just 49 cases active.

Experts have warned that the risk of community infection in Vietnam remains high as more foreign specialists, highly skilled workers and Vietnamese citizens stranded overseas due to the pandemic are allowed to enter Vietnam.

Written by Nguyen Quy
Source: VN Express
Published on 30 May 20230

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