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Street vendors struggle amidst global integration

Update: November, 12/2015 - 10:00
Street vendors in Ta Hien Street, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi. As the country is integrating deeper into the world market, a number of street vendors who come to pursue their dream in cities might lose their jobs. — VNS Photo Viet Thanh

HA NOI (VNS) — As the country is integrating deeper into the world market, a number of street vendors who come to pursue their dream in cities might lose their jobs, experts have warned.

With the ASEAN Economic Community formed at the end of this year and the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, goods from other countries will flood Viet Nam's market, forming a wide range of products for supermarkets and store chains.

As a result, street vendors in urban areas will have fewer customers and finally disappear, said Nguyen Thi Lan Huong, director of the Institute of Labour Science and Social Affairs.

"Poor and low-income people can not compete and are likely to lose jobs in the service sectors," Huong said.

Nguyen Thi Lan, a street vendor from Thai Binh, said that her business met many difficulties due to the increased number of stores and supermarkets.

"We used to make between VND6 million (nearly US$270) and VND7 million (nearly $315) monthly but now our income has been unstable as we have fewer customers."

An expert in labour relations, who refused to be named, said that integration would reduce informal jobs for unskilled workers; however street vendors still had their own market as they had become an integral part of the city.

Nguyen Van Truong, 60, a street vendor selling tao pho (silky tofu) from Nam Dinh said that his business remained stable.

"I do not worry about the increased number of supermarkets at all because most of them do not sell tofu. And I sell tofu at a cheap price, only VND10,000 per bowl. My food is usually sold out at four in the afternoon," Truong said.

Nguyen Anh Tuan, 30, who lives in the Old Quarter said that he usually buys fruits and small items like scissors and cotton swabs from street vendors.

"It is really convenient and quick. I can just stand at the front door and call for the food while going to stores or especially to the supermarket takes me a lot of time. Moreover, I can bargain with the street vendors – one thing which you can not do in the supermarkets."

Nguyen Thi Thanh Na, 28, a migrant worker in Ha Noi wants to buy fruits and other items from street vendors for another reason.

"I come from rural areas so I sympathise with people who have to leave their hometowns and make ends meet in the city. They have to walk around the streets all day to find customers and sometimes, they are chased and their goods are confiscated by local police."

However, other customers prefer purchasing stuff from supermarkets due to quality concerns.

Old Quarter resident Ha My Huong, 26, said that sometimes she bought low-quality items from street vendors and she could not find them again to complain about that.

"Unlike street vendors, owners of stores and supermarkets do business at a fixed location, so they have to ensure the quality of goods to build their brand names and keep the customer coming back. Moreover, street vendors mostly sell items with unclear origins," Huong said.

Lessons from developed countries show that informal workers like street vendors will be negatively affected or even disappear in the integration process; therefore, authorised agencies need to provide them with vocational training to help them adapt to the new situation, Vu Huu Kien, a senior lecturer of international labour organisation said.

Sharing his opinion, Nguyen Thi Lan Huong, director of the Institute of Labour Science and Social Affairs said that street vendors should be trained to find jobs in industrial parks and in financial and personal service sectors. — VNS

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