Internal migrant workers in Hà Nội face poverty, danger

June 06, 2020 - 12:00

Thousands of internal migrant workers from nearby provinces’ rural areas have come to Hà Nội to earn livings by working tough jobs full of hardships.


Migrant workers gather in an area near a flower garden in Hà Nội.Photos

 HÀ NỘI — Thousands of internal migrant workers from nearby provinces’ rural areas have come to Hà Nội to earn livings by working tough jobs full of hardships.

The migrant workers often gather at major markets of the city, including Mai Động, Long Biên, Hà Đông, Bưởi and Mai Dịch, to await people to hire them for day labour.

The jobs could be cleaning up, gardening, destroying an old house or working on a construction site.

Nguyễn Văn Thuận, 30, of Giao Thuỷ District, the northern province of Nam Định, sits on a pavement near Hà Nội’s Hà Đông Flower Market to wait for work.

“I can do anything I'm asked as long as it is legal,” he said, adding that sometimes he can earn about VNĐ12 million (US$515) a month.

There are many rich people in Hà Nội and they need workers to destroy their old houses to build new ones, especially in the last months of each year.

“At that time, many people hire me and I even could earn VNĐ1 million ($43) per day if I work hard,” he said.

He's often exhausted after working several jobs in a day, Tiền Phong (Vanguard) online newspaper reported.

“I always think if I earn more, I will have more savings,” he said.

On average, after paying his daily living costs and for accommodation, Thuận can save about VNĐ7-8 million ($300-343) to send to his wife and two children in his hometown each month.


Female migrant workers in Hà Nội.

Similarly to Thuận, Hoàng Thị Hiền, 45, of Tĩnh Gia District, the northern province of Thanh Hoá, said she came to Hà Nội to earn a living two years ago.

She waited for work at Mai Dịch Market every day.

Hiền said she was a farmer, but she couldn't make enough to make ends meet, so she set out for Hà Nội.

She said earned up to VNĐ300,000 ($13) daily on good days, normally doing cleaning and gardening work.

Lê Thị Thắm, 50, of the central province of Nghệ An, said she had earned a living in Hà Nội for many years after she divorced.

“I do everything to have enough money to send my two daughters to university.”

Thắm and her four friends together share a rented room, costing VNĐ1 million ($43) each month. She usually wakes up at 5am and goes to Bưởi Market to wait for work.

“The earlier you come, the more jobs you get,” she said.

Unstable and dangerous

Although the jobs they do are unstable and pose risks, the migrant workers have no choice as they need money to raise their families.

Thắm said several years ago, there was a lot of work to do but things had changed.

She had to collect scrap to earn more, Thắm said.

“Waiting for jobs is quite passive,” Thuận said.

Some days there was a lot of work to do, other days there was nothing, he said.

Thuận suffered an accident in August 2018 while he was hired to destroy a two-storey old house.

He fell from the scaffold to the ground and broke his cheekbones. His medical expenses hit VNĐ30 million ($1,290) and he did not have a health insurance card. However, the man who hired him only gave him VNĐ1 million (U$43) in compensation.

“Normally, for the kind of job we do, all transactions are agreed verbally, so it is difficult to ask the employers to pay compensation,” he said.

Thuận said there were a lot of risks when doing this kind of work, but people like him had no other choice.

For example, one of his friends, died of an electric shock when he worked at a construction site in Sóc Sơn District. Electrical leakage was blamed for the reason. No one had to take responsibility.

“It’s a sad story,” he said.

A survey, taken under the project 'Developing labour and employment market' of the Ministry of Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs showed most internal migrant workers came to big cities to earn more money. The migrant workers were mainly aged 18-35, with 60 per cent of them women.

The survey found 65 per cent of the workers were unskilled manual labourers, meaning the jobs they got were often unstable and in dangerous environments.

The survey also found many migrant workers did not have labour contracts and therefore no social or health insurance.

The survey recommended that managerial agencies must develop more supporting policies for internal migrant workers.

Supporting policies

In response to the situation, the city’s Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs Department has opened job sessions at employment service centres to create opportunities for migrant workers to seek jobs.

Nguyễn Thanh Nhàn, deputy head of the department, said the department had asked agencies to keep statistics on internal migrant workers to issue more suitable policies.

The labour ministry has launched a project since 2017 that includes support for migrant workers to seek jobs in employment service centres.

Under the project, migrant workers are provided advice and information on employment in the city as well as job-hunting skills.

It is estimated that Hà Nội is home to 1.3 million internal migrant workers. — VNS