Cheap labour a double-edged sword for nation's development
Vice Chairman of the NA Office Nguyen Sy Dung spoke to Hai quan (Customs) newspaper about the quality of the labour force in Viet Nam in the context of global competitiveness.
The fact that Viet Nam has many young people willing to work for low wages has been seen as an advantage for the last few decades, attracting significant investment into the country. Does this continue to be an advantage?
It will still be an advantage, but also a dilemma. This means foreign investors just come to Viet Nam for cheap labour.
We are facing a real difficulty. If we don't offer cheap labour, workers will be unemployed. But if we continue to do so, our labour resources will be exhausted. So the cheap labour will continue from generation to generation if not enough is invested in labour resources. Labourers must be more skilled than they are now in order to remove their cheap status. Also, a cheap labour force with high quality will be more competitive.
What are the reasons for the low quality of the Vietnamese labour force?
The first reason is unprofessional labour organisation. For example, people have to do things totally different from what they are trained to do. Or they employ six people for a job that only needs five.
The second reason is that our training programme has not been very in-depth as we focus too much on theory but not at all on practice. This problem originated a long time ago, so it cannot be solved at once. Skill is very important. Knowledge is just the foundation for the development of skill.
The third reason is that Vietnamese labourers can understand ideas quickly and work fast but have yet to reach the level of quality that workers have in other countries.
There are also other reasons such as a shortage of money for technology updates and a lack of competition among labourers.
Is that because labourers, in general, and students, in particular, are not active enough?
Labourers continue to follow the market. A graduate of law school can shift to work in foreign trade or finance if he has not got a job as a lawyer. That means people are moving towards opportunities.
We cannot say that students are not active. Even their choice of a profession to study indicates that they are active. Those who are not active must lower their expectations.
However, the reality in Viet Nam is that many people go to school to get a degree but not a profession.
Viet Nam's educational system has failed to push people to study for knowledge. Just earning a degree can result in a job opportunity. Some employers also see degrees as a type of insurance. However, if an employer sees too many workers who have excellent degrees but cannot really work, degrees will begin to mean nothing to him or her.
There is a controversy right now about the in-service training programme [which offers a university education to employees outside working hours]. Even the degrees from the system have been denied in some localities. Should the education be continued?
We should continue the programme. However, it should not lead to automatic promotion, but should provide a way for people to perform their work better.
The requirement for managers to have degrees has changed the meaning of the degree itself.
Terminating the in-service training programme would mean breaking many people's legitimate aspirations to develop. Just remember that the in-service training is to give trainees skills they can contribute to their work afterwards, not only to get a degree. — VNS