|Workers produce toys for export at Cheewah Viet Nam Toy Production Company in Ha Tay District, Ha Noi. This year, many workers will not be able to enjoy big Tet bonuses due to the financial woes of struggling enterprises. — VNA/VNS Photo Danh Lam
by Minh Thi
HA NOI (VNS)— Tet, or the Lunar New Year, is a significant event that most Vietnamese people look forward to, not just because of the long holiday break, but also because of the customary Tet bonus.
This year, however, this might not be the case for many workers due to the financial woes of struggling enterprises. Subsequently, many will not be able to enjoy big Tet bonuses.
Luong Thi Hanh, who works for a private-owned footwear company in northern Hai Phong Province, said she did not expect much for her Tet bonus this year.
"Maybe one to three hundred thousand Viet Nam dong, it cannot be more than that," she said.
When asked why, Hanh said she had only received VND10,000 as a bonus for the Western New Year, a sum not enough to buy a bowl of pho.
Instead, Hanh said she would have to spend her salary to celebrate the Tet holiday this year and is not holding out for a big bonus.
Mai Anh Tuan, who works for an electronics company in Ha Noi's Hoang Mai District, is even more disappointed by his Tet bonus, even though will receive a larger sum than Hanh –around VND2 million (US$95).
Tuan said he and his wife had to take care of their children and their parents in addition to meeting costly rent payments.
"With only VND2 million, I won't be able to offer gifts of much value to my family and my wife's family, let alone relatives. The only thing I can do is to throw a small feast for my family to celebrate the new year."
The money also falls short of affording a peach blossom tree, priced from VND2-3 million, a "must-have" for Tet celebrations in northern Viet Nam.
With the price of food to skyrocket during Tet, a small feast will be no easy feat for Tuan.
While many workers appear dissatisfied with their expected Tet bonuses, employers are also suffering, with many employers barely able to offer employees ‘lucky money' for the holiday season.
Bach Thuy Linh, owner of a private education centre in Ha Noi said the past year had been a difficult year for small companies, including hers. Some are still struggling with accumulated debts.
Linh added that she even had to borrow money to offer Tet bonuses to her employees, knowing how much the money means to them.
The bonus would not be significant, ranging from VND500,000 to VND1 million ($23-47) for each employee depending on how long they had worked for the company, she said.
"Even though the money is not significant due to the company's financial difficulty, I want to show the company's appreciation of their hard work throughout the year."
Despite her own setbacks, Linh said her company was still doing better than many others which are facing bankruptcy.
"Nine out of ten private companies are struggling to offer employees Tet bonuses. If they say they have no problems, they are probably lying to save face."
Nguyen Dinh Hue, chairman of the Labour Confederation of Ha Noi's Hoan Kiem District agreed that enterprises in Ha Noi were facing difficulties.
He said that in Hoan Kiem District alone, 546 out of more than 4,000 companies had gone bankrupt in 2013. However, he said the district was still faring better than other districts in the capital.
Hue also revealed that company tax revenues collected in Hoan Kiem District in 2013 accounted for only 64 per cent of money collected in the previous year and was significantly lower than the annual target.
He added that some banks had failed to pay taxes last year due to not generating a profit.
One bank's contributions had even fallen to as low as 5 per cent of tax payments made the year prior, he said.
The General Statistics Office's 2013 report on economic development of Viet Nam revealed that the total number of businesses that closed or suspended operations had climbed to more than 60,700, a rise of nearly 12 per cent year-on-year.
Domestic companies also appear to be suffering more than their foreign invested counterparts, according to a representative from the Ha Noi Export Processing and Industrial Zones Authorities.
Dozens of companies in Ha Noi's industrial and export zones could not afford to offer Tet bonuses, he said.
According to the Ha Noi Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, company reports filed with the department show the damage is widespread in Ha Noi, with many companies indicating Tet bonuses would decrease between 1.2 to 3.5 per cent. Only foreign company reports indicated that the bonus would be the same as last year.
According to official data, the average Tet bonus offered by enterprises is between VND3.1 million to VND3.7 million ($147-176) based on figures submitted to the department. However, the figure does not take into account companies who will not pay bonuses this year.
In HCM City, the Tet bonus appears to be much higher, with an official average between VND4.5 million to VND8.1 million ($214-385), according to a recent report by the city's Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.
Around 22 per cent of more than 1,220 reporting enterprises admitted they faced difficulties sourcing the funds for Tet bonuses. — VNS