Urgent solutions to promote housing for workers

June 03, 2023 - 07:57
Housing solutions for workers has become the utmost priority to ensure the wellbeing of staff and their continued dedication to their jobs.
Dormitory rooms for workers in Thăng Long Industrial Zone in Hà Nội. VNA/VNS Photo

Xuân Minh

HÀ NỘI – Experts have emphasised the pressing need to address the housing challenges faced by migrant workers in industrial parks and export processing zones, where they often live in cramped, small houses in substandard conditions.

Housing solutions for workers has become the utmost priority to ensure the wellbeing of staff and their continued dedication to their jobs, they said.

Lương Tiến Dũng, a worker from Thanh Hoá Province, has been renting a room near Châu Sơn Industrial Zone in Phủ Lý City, Hà Nam Province for five years.

“My wife and I earn an average worker's income of around VNĐ15 million monthly. We manage to save VNĐ3-4 million per month, hoping to buy a small apartment so we can settle down," he said.

Another worker, Hoàng Thị Liên, from northern Phú Thọ Province, is currently renting a 20sq.m room in a boarding house in Bạch Thượng Ward in Hà Nam Province near Đồng Văn Industrial Zone.

The house has a metal roof, making it extremely hot during the summer months.

"At the beginning of this month, the landlord told us about an electricity price hike, leading to an increase in our living expenses," she said.

"When I was single, I took advantage of overtime work to escape the heat by staying at the company where there is air conditioning. But after getting married and having a baby, I spend my time at home with just a regular fan to keep cool.”

Given the high cost of living in the city, Liên said buying a house is not feasible.

“We are considering sending our child back to our grandparents' house in Nghệ An Province,” she said.

Dũng and Liên are among numerous migrant workers who left their hometowns in search of better opportunities in big cities. Despite their efforts, most workers, with their limited financial capacity and the soaring living cost in cities, find it impossible to own a house.

High demand

Vũ Minh Tiến, Head of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL)’s Institute for Workers and Trade Unions highlighted the pressing need for affordable houses, especially for migrant workers in industrial parks and export processing zones in Hà Nội and Bình Dương Province, as well as Đồng Nai, Long An and Hà Nam provinces.

The institute conducted surveys in 16 cities and provinces with numerous industrial zones nationwide and found that up to 41 per cent of workers desired affordable and suitable housing near their workplaces to ensure their living conditions. However, this remains extremely challenging due to workers’ low income.

“It is very challenging for migrant workers to buy a house as only a few can afford social housing,” he said.

The survey also showed that about 90 per cent of migrant workers had to rent in cramped, substandard rooms.

Trần Minh Hiếu, a migrant worker, in his rented room near Quang Minh Industrial Zone in Hà Nội. VNA/VNS Photo Phan Tuấn Anh

Lê Văn Nghĩa, head of the Trade Union’s Project Management Board under VGCL, said the union has conducted surveys on the living and housing conditions of workers and found that many of them had to stay in tiny rooms measuring only 10-20sq.m.

These rooms have no toilets or kitchens, and were extremely hot and stuffy on summer days.

In 2017, VGCL proposed a project to build social housing for workers. However, it has encountered obstacles due to Land Law and Housing Law. It has also made proposals to address these difficulties. Currently, there are 35 localities that have allocated land of three to seven hectares to build residential areas for workers.

"If policy obstacles are resolved, the process of project documentation and procedures will take about two-three years, and the construction process can be completed within one year. Currently, Hà Nam Province is piloting the construction of 244 apartments for workers," he said.

Trần Tuấn Anh, Deputy Head of the Management Board of Hà Nội’s Industrial and Export Processing Zones said the city has nearly 170,000 workers, but in reality, there are only around 22,000 accommodations available for them.

Currently, there are four housing projects for workers in industrial and export processing zones with a total design capacity of about 22,000 housing units. These projects include the pilot project for worker housing in Kim Chung Ward in Đông Anh District, which can accommodate about 11,520 workers from Thăng Long Industrial Zone. The housing project in Phú Nghĩa Industrial Zone has partly completed with a total floor area of 4,822sq.m, equivalent to 106 apartments for about 800 workers.

The Meiko Company’s housing project has completed two-thirds of its construction and put into use 330 apartments, providing 2,290 housing units. The Young Fast Optoelectronics Co. Ltd’s housing project has completed the construction and put into use 49 apartments to meet the housing needs of experts and workers of the company. These two projects are built by businesses on land allocated to them.

Anh said investors are not interested in building social housing for workers, especially projects with a payback period of 20 to 30 years due to low profitability.

In addition, workers' demand for social housing is diversified. The majority of workers have a demand for rental housing as they tend to return to their hometowns when they retire.

These are issues that policymakers need to carefully consider as the social housing construction must be suitable for the characteristics and lifestyles of workers and close to industrial and export processing zones.

One more problem, he said, is workers’ income. A couple of workers have monthly salaries of VNĐ13 million, so no one dares to spend VNĐ3 million renting a house.

Therefore, the priority is to improve the living standards and income of workers while ensuring transparency in the process of building housing for workers, and attract the participation of enterprises, he said. – VNS