Informal labourers struggle to make ends meet in the time of coronavirus

April 14, 2020 - 18:23

Four people in Đinh Anh Hoà’s family have jammed in a bedsit of 16sq.m for two weeks.


Drivers for ride-hailing services can enjoy the Government's relief package from April to June. — Photo


HÀ NỘI — Four people in Đinh Anh Hoà’s family have been jammed in a 16sq.m-bedsit for two weeks.

Three years ago, Hoà and his wife left their hometown – in Phú Thọ Province – in search of a new life in Long Biên District, Hà Nội.

He works as a freelance motorbike driver for the ride-hailing service Grab, while his wife cooks at a kindergarten canteen. They struggle to make ends meet and raise two children in the big city.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned their lives upside down.

“Due to school closure, my wife stays at home to take care of the children. I worked 10 to 12 hours a day, earning VNĐ200,000 (US$8.6) daily to support the whole family,” Hoà told Thanh niên (Young People) newspaper.

“For a fortnight, ride-hailing services have been hit badly by the disease. I cannot make a single penny. If the situation worsens, I do not know how we will survive,” he added.

Hundreds of migrant workers in the informal sector like Hoà, have hustled back home while the others choose to stay, clinging to hope that the pandemic shall pass.

However, with all the complicated developments, they seem to be caught in between.

Nguyễn Thị Hoàn, a scrap collector from Nam Định Province, said she did not dare to go home.

“I’m afraid to be sent to a quarantine camp. My landlord has reduced the monthly rent from VNĐ1.5 million ($64.4) to VNĐ1 million ($43). I received donated instant noodles and eggs, too,” she said.

With the 15-day nationwide social distancing order, starting from April 1, all unnecessary services have been suspended, wiping out jobs of thousands of informal workers.

Nguyễn Thanh Nhàn, a massage practitioner from Thanh Hoá Province who works at a spa on Thái Thịnh Street, said their wage was meagre, about VNĐ1.5 million per month.

“Our income comes mostly from tips. Because of the disease, the spa did not have any customers. Being the family’s breadwinner, for the first time can I really feel the financial burden. My only wish at the moment is to have it contained. I just cannot hold on any longer,” she said.

On April 10, the Government approved a US$2.6 billion relief package to support the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is estimated that 20 million people will enjoy the bailout including workers in the informal sector.

Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Đào Ngọc Dung said that the group was the most affected by the disease. Each of them will receive assistance of VNĐ1 million for three months from April to June.

“The ministry will ask the Prime Minister to decide on certain groups, focusing on manual labourers including vendors, scrap collectors, porters, motorbike taxi drivers, cyclers, lottery vendors and servants at eateries, rooming houses or medical facilities,” said Dung.

 “We ensure to support people who need the assistance the most, in a timely and transparent manner,” he added.

According to the International Labour Organisation, there are nearly 18 million Vietnamese workers in the informal sector. They do not have a labour contract while earn low wages. Losing jobs in the time of COVID-19, to them, means losing income without being able to receive unemployment benefits. — VNS