Legal affairs chief at the Viet Nam General Confederation of Labour, Dang Quang Dieu, told Nong Thon Ngay Nay (Countryside Today) newspaper about the need to improve the labour force before 2015.
Can you provide a general assessment of the quality of our labour force?
We currently have about 53 million people in the labour force, accounting for nearly 70 per cent of the population. This abundant and youthful labour force is the driver of our economic growth.
The Party and the Government have implemented many policies to support skills training, but it's true that the quality of labour has not kept up with the pace of socio-economic development.
The percentage of skilled workers is only about 40 per cent and that of those with vocational training is about 30 per cent.
In addition, our workers' lack of discipline also hinders their competitiveness in the market.
In 2015, when ASEAN becomes a single-labour market, how can our workers meet the demand?
Obviously, quality is a major concern, especially discipline. Compared with those from countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, we are quite behind. It would be very tough to compete when a single-labour market becomes a reality.
Just look at the struggles we already have with the labour export market. Even within the country, our workers are losing out to workers from China and Singapore in some areas and sectors.
If we don't improve skills training and discipline, then it would be difficult to integrate with a regional labour market.
Some people blame the work environment and not the fact that we don't have skilled workers. What do you think?
It's definitely one of the main reasons. Currently, most of the foreign investors whom we attract focus only on labour-intensive projects, which require little skills.
Most of the companies which invest in Viet Nam primarily focus on assembling, even in high-tech and high-skilled sectors like electronics.
When the job does not require much skill, these workers lack the motivation to move up the ladder.
Salaries is another matter. Workers' salaries do not cover basic necessities, let alone any further studies which they might want to do. There's no guarantee that they would get better jobs if they do that as well.
What can we do to address these challenges?
It really depends on the workers. They have to work on self-discipline and engage in skills training. Along with that, obviously, supportive policies, such as those related to salaries, are critically needed.
They have to improve self-discipline and professionalism.
We have to have a road map which attracts high-tech investment projects, instead of just the labour-intensive ones.
On the education side, obviously more attention has to be given to encouraging students to do vocational training instead of all of them striving to attend universities.
All these policies must be well-coordinated to boost the quality of our labour force in the future. — VNS