Updated  
June, 21 2013 09:17:22

Migrant workers need better deal

A street vendor sells drinks in HCM City. Migrant workers, who move from rural to urban areas and industrial zones, do not receive the support they deserve, experts say. — VNA/VNS Photo Phuong Vy

HA NOI (VNS)— Migrant workers had not received the support they deserved, considering their contributions towards the country's development, said Dang Nguyen Anh, head of the Institute of Sociology, at a conference in Ha Noi yesterday.

The conference, attended by policymakers, researchers and representatives from international organisations, covered the issue of labour migration from rural to urban areas and industrial zones in Viet Nam.

Many participants at the conference agreed with Nguyen Anh, urging more support from the Government at both central and local levels in terms of policy making and law enforcement.

Jonathan Pincus, of the Fulbright Economics Teaching Programme, urged policymakers to look at the large picture of labour migration, as migrant workers were increasingly becoming a large proportion of the country's labour force.

"They are not an exception," said Pincus, as he pointed out that a lot of Government data and surveys, such as the labour force population survey, did not include information about migrant workers.

Nguyen Anh said the Government's poverty reduction strategy did not include the issue of migration whereas labour migration was very much related to poverty reduction.

According to a 2012 survey released by the Beyond WTO Programme yesterday, 93 per cent of the migrant workers questioned said local governments did not offer them any support, except for their work, to maintain local security.

The survey, conducted with 7,800 workers in 15 cities and provinces, including Ha Noi, HCM City, Da Nang and Binh Duong, also revealed that living costs were the major challenge facing migrant workers.

Eighty-six per cent of the workers were living in rented house as opposed to a mere 3 per cent living in their own homes. More than 70 per cent said they had difficulty finding suitable accommodation.

Notably, 85 per cent said they had to pay higher electricity and water bills than usual, which were set by their landlords.

Pincus pointed out that the cost of accommodation was very high compared to the wages of workers, forcing many to live in substandard conditions while others spent half their income just on accommodation.

The survey also revealed that 50 per cent of the respondents were manual workers, while 33 per cent were freelance workers. Sixty-six per cent of them were unskilled.

Eighty per cent of the workers decided to migrate with the hope of finding better jobs, with 50 per cent either not satisfied with their job at home, under-employed or unemployed.

The fact that more and more people decide to leave their homes to find employment in urban areas leads to speculation by experts that job opportunities for workers might be quite limited in rural areas. Pincus also raised the problem of a generation of children being left behind as their parents moved to urban areas or industrial zones to work.

The Department of Employment, under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, is drafting a strategy on a support policy for workers migrating from rural to urban areas and industrial zones.

In the strategy, they propose a fund for migrant workers be set up to offer them support in vocational training and the job searching process.

The draft document has drawn a lot of arguments from experts. Most of them have called for a more detailed and solid definition of "migrant workers". For instance, it is not clear whether a worker who has only been in a new place for half a year should be subject to the strategy's support.

Ngo Van Thu, from the National Economics University, said that while the challenges facing migrant workers were evident, it was necessary to conduct research and surveys to make comparisons between the lives of local and migrant people to avoid unequal treatment and to make policies accordingly.

Upon completion, the draft strategy will be submitted to the Prime Minister for approval. — VNS


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