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Inflation woes hit poor migrants hardest

Update: September, 08/2013 - 18:42
by Trung Hieu

It is 8pm in a poor hamlet on the outskirts of Ha Noi. Inside a very small house, Nguyen Thi Tinh hurriedly prepares dinner for her family.

Their meal is so simple that she cooked it in just a few minutes: one dish of boiled vegetables and some pieces of roasted meat.

Like thousands of people who moved to Ha Noi from rural areas, Tinh has no idea what the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is and she is unable to confidently explain inflation. What she does know is that their meals are getting smaller by the day.

"Our house rent increases almost every month, as do the electricity bills and cooking fuel. I don't know how I can afford all of these costs."

Many hamlets in the capital's Cau Giay and Hoan Kiem districts are now home to migrant labourers from provinces.

Le Thi Mich migrated with her family to Ha Noi from Thanh Hoa some years ago.

She recalls that in the first few years after the move, their lives were "like a dream".

"At that time, the economy was growing, thus people in Ha Noi spent very well. That meant street vendors like me and motorbike taxi riders like my husband could earn enough money to send back home to help our parents."

As prosperity grew, so did migration. A Vietnamese saying goes: "A rich man in the countryside can't be compared with a wanderer in a big city," and many did make the move in search of a better life.

However, during the last four years, life has become harder and harder for them.

"We can hardly accumulate any money now, because all living expenses are rising, even above the amount we can earn," Mich says sadly.

Every month she has to pay a school fee of about VND700,000 (US$35) on average for her seven-year-old son. Her second son is three years old but he can't yet speak well because Mich keeps him at home, as the cost of kindergarten is hundreds of thousands of dong each month.

Immigrants in HCM City are also suffering from the same situation. Nguyen Thi Nguyet arrived there from the northern province of Thai Binh and now works for a local industrial zone.

"Though I work in the City, I rent a small room in the outskirts district of Hoc Mon because it is cheap.

"Previously, I could pay all of my expenses and bills and still save about VND500,000-700,000 ($25-35) a month. Today, life is more difficult because market prices increase all the time.

"Earlier, we could eat more vegetables and fruit as an affordable replacement for meat, but today even these are not cheap. Each day I have to spend at least VND60,000 ($3) for rice, cooking gas, food, and vegetables. This means I have no money left over to save. This month I couldn't afford to buy broccoli and sweet mustard greens, never mind meat and fish."

High inflation nationwide is reducing people's purchasing power and has hit hardest on migrant labourers.

According to the Statistics Science Institute, Ha Noi now has about 132,000 manual workers and HCM City has about 344,000. Most of these are from provinces.

With low income and high inflation they have to try and cut down their spending to a minimum level.

As such, climbing inflation indirectly impacts living conditions, with levels of health care and nutrition falling.

Any savings that are made by poor workers are often sent home to rescue other family members from poverty. But when their own lives become more difficult they cannot offer aid to relatives, who fall back into trouble.

According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, GDP this year is forecast to increase by 5.5 per cent while CPI will rise by 7 per cent.

The Government has targeted a reduction in the country's poverty ratio to 7.6 per cent this year.

In order to control inflation, leaders have insisted they are implementing new and effective measures and have claimed that CPI is "under control." However, to the country's many poor people like Mich and Tinh, the future still looks bleak. - VNS

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