Viet Nam News
Nguyễn Thị Xuân Mai, head of the Department for Labour and Population Statistics of the General Statistics Office, discusses with the Nông thôn Ngày nay (Countryside Today) newspaper measures to reduce the rate of undocumented workers.
What do you think about the presence of undocumented workers in Việt Nam?
A recent report by the General Statistics Office shows that the rate of unofficial workers in Việt Nam is relatively high at 18 million. If labourers in the agricultural sector are taken into account, there are over 40 million unofficial workers, accounting for over 70 per cent of the country’s total work force of 54 million. This ratio is much higher than in Thailand and China, but is still lower than that of India and Bangladesh. A worrying fact is that up to 76 per cent of unofficial workers (in the non-agricultural sectors) have no contracts and no social security. As per our estimates, shifting unofficial workers to official status is slow, only about 1-2 per cent in the 2014-2016 period. Without any adjustments, the situation will have negative impacts on the national labour market and economy.
Can you elaborate on these impacts?
First, the high rate of unofficial workers hinders the protection of workers’ rights to contracts, social security and health insurance, often thrusting them into vicious cycles of poverty and backwardness. Unintentionally, they become a burden for families and society. Second, the situation also has an adverse impact on the sustainable development of enterprises, the State budget and Government activities, especially in terms of socio-political and environmental policies.
What should be done to reduce the number of unofficial workers?
Currently, the criterion to distinguish between an official worker and an unofficial one is their work position. Therefore, it is necessary to document these workers. This can be done by facilitating the establishment of new enterprises that provide jobs, attracting more foreign investment to support the development of FDI (foreign direct investment) and domestic enterprises so that they will create more jobs. Some experts also suggest promoting linkages between household businesses, regarded as unofficial, and official sectors. For example, we can help vegetable growers supply supermarkets and agro-trading companies with their products, through which their work will be officialised. The same measure can also be applied to rice growers and animal breeders. Other long-term solutions may include more State investment in vocational training, supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises and reducing taxes for those moving from unofficial positions to official ones.
However, many say that it is difficult for workers to move from unofficial positions given a shortage of jobs. What do you think?
I think the economy has already seen positive signs. The number of new jobs in the FDI sector is high. Unofficial workers are totally capable of becoming documented workers by applying for jobs in these enterprises. However, the difficulty does not only lie in how to create official work. Adding to the problem is the inverted trend where many official workers are moving to the unofficial one. For example, many taxi drivers are leaving their jobs at taxi companies to become drivers for ride-hailing services like Uber and Grab (where they are considered freelancers), or many workers from the countryside are moving to cities to seek temporary jobs. Therefore, we should gradually come up with appropriate policies for these seasonal workers. — VNS