No fun and little rest for low-paid City workers

September 17, 2018 - 09:00

Many workers in HCM City’s industrial parks and economic zones spend most of their “leisure” time taking in more work, seeking to earn extra cash to improve their difficult living and working conditions.

Workers of HCM City’s industrial zones play tug of war. Many workers in the city’s industrial parks spend their leisure time doing extra work to make ends meet. — Photo
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY – Many workers in HCM City’s industrial parks and economic zones spend most of their “leisure” time taking in more work, seeking to earn extra cash to improve their difficult living and working conditions.

As a result, the social and spiritual lives of these workers remain extremely constrained, leaving them unhappy and at risk of social evils.

Phạm Thị Thanh Hoa, 24, a garment worker from Bình Định Province, told that she shares a small room with two other workers near her factory in Hóc Môn District. After working hours, they all return to their rented room as they are too tired to go else where.

Hoa said she worked from early morning to midnight to earn VNĐ8 million (US$342) per month. She needs to earn money to send to her elderly parents and 4-year-old daughter back in her hometown.

“I don’t have much time to talk on the phone with my daughter. I’m exhausted after work and only want to sleep”, she said.

An old television, the only valuable item and only source of recreation in her rented room, was covered with a thick layer of dust.

Staying inside a rented room and sleeping is the only leisure activity for most female workers like Hoa. 

Nguyễn Thị Thanh Phương, a worker in Thủ Đức District’s Linh Xuân Ward, said she and other roommates usually did nothing but sleep and cook and sleep again on weekends.

Phương said she has spent roughly 15 years working in HCM City, but has never been to the cinema or any park. 

“I’ve been stuck on the garment machine all day and don’t even have time for dating,” Phương said. 

For male workers, drinking is the most popular recreational activity during weekends. 

Nguyễn Tấn Linh, from central Quảng Ngãi Province, said he and some 20 fellow workers who shared rented rooms in Bình Chánh District’s Vĩnh Lộc B Commune usually drank on their days off.

Some beers, boiled eggs and instant noodles with vegetables are good snacks as they get drunk.

Bùi Trần Thành, from Trà Vinh Province, said he did not have money to go to any entertainment places. Their average income was about VNĐ5 million ($213) a month including allowances for transportation, room rent and overtime. He’d rather stay at the room and have fun with his colleagues than leave.  

Phạm Thanh Thôi from HCM City’s University of Social Sciences and Humanities said recent surveys of the university showed that many workers confined their lives to their workplaces and their own rooms. Many young workers were afraid of changing jobs even though they were not satisfied with their jobs.

They had few chances to get familiar with the city and try to save as much money as possible—except for what they’re willing to spend on alcohol.

Major Lê Hữu Phước, head of the Criminal Police Team of District 8’s Police Department, said cases of drunken workers fighting each other had been reported on weekends and public holidays.

Last year, a group of 17 workers in the district fought each other after getting drunk. One worker died in the fight.

Labour cultural houses abandoned

Although many cultural houses were built as recreational places for workers, most have been abandoned as their activities fail to attract workers and their locations are often not convenient for workers from their factories and housing.

High-tech Cultural House, with capital investment of more than VNĐ70 billion ($2.9 million), was put into operation in late 2016 as a recreational place for 13,000 workers in District 9 and Thủ Đức District.

Nguyễn Thái Thành, director of the cultural house, said the labour cultural house activities mainly included courses in kung fu, musical instruments, foreign language and online trading. Some courses were discounted 20-40 per cent and some were free, but they failed to attract workers.

Thành said all of the courses were established based on surveys on the aspirations of workers.

Another cultural house in Tân Phú District in Tân Bình Industrial Zone is in the same situation.

Most of the classes are empty.

Trần Đoàn Trung, vice chairman of HCM City’s Labour Federation, admitted the ineffective operation of labour cultural houses in the city, saying improper locations and inappropriate activities were the main reasons for the lack of attendance.

Trung said to improve the situation, all recreational courses should be introduced in factories and rented rooms of workers to make them more convenient. —VNS