by Hong Minh
After more than 10 years as a full-time housemaid with a Vietnamese family in Ha Noi, Dao Thi Thom, 29, has never been offered health insurance or social insurance like other workers. This is because, despite the fact she has a contract, most Vietnamese, including authorities, have never viewed a maid's job as actual work.
Thom left her home town in the northern province of Phu Tho to Ha Noi in 2001 at 15 after failing at entrance exams to high school. She became a housemaid instead, helping a young couple take care for their new-born baby then moving in to look after the house.
She never knew or bothered about any kind of insurance until she got married and had her first baby five years ago. "Doctors asked me for my social insurance and health insurance cards which they said would help reduce the bills during my pregnancy and delivery. I realised then that I had lost quite a big sum of money due to my inability to pay insurance in advance," Thom said.
In Viet Nam, by law, employers are bound to pay all social security and health insurance payments to all workers on labour contracts, but most people working as servants even do not sign a contract with their employers.
Thom said that for many years, like most other servants, she had received only a monthly salary and bonuses from her owner, and sometimes, extra payments for national holidays. "It was difficult to ask for my employers to help out with insurance payments as they did not want to pay more money – and there was not enough for me to make the payments," Thom said.
So Thom was overjoyed with Decree 27/2014/ND-CP signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung last week that another maid whispered into her ears, including new obligations by domestic employers – including one part that they must pay social security and insurance for maids.
Like Thom, Nguyen Thi Han, who works as a housemaid for a family in My Dinh New Urban Area, welcomed the decree, which will take effect from May 25. She welcomed the new regulations, which include compulsory signing of labour contracts, 12 paid holidays a year, a guaranteed eight hours rest a day and at least four days off a month.
"Above all, I most appreciate the regulation on insurance. It means that I can now go for medical check-ups using a health-insurance card. I will also receive a retirement pension after 20 years paying social insurance," Han said.
Regarding the new decree, an officer at the Ministry of Justice's Department of Legal Aid said that domestic employers would soon be responsible for paying the compulsory insurance together with monthly salaries so that servants can pay insurance themselves.
He said that, accordingly, the owners must pay the money, which is calculated at 21 per cent of a worker's pay. Eighteen per cent of this is for social insurance and the remaining three per cent for health insurance.
The officer added that when the regulations were introduced, labour contracts between householders and servants must clarify in detail the amount of payments. The amounts cannot be lower than the Government's regulated minimum wages already applied to four regions in the country. These run from VND1.9 million to VND2.7 million (US$90.5-128.5) a month.
Despite the obvious benefit to servants and the fact that they now have parity with other workers throughout the nation, domestic employers are not happy. "Both my husband and I are public servants with limited salaries," said Hoang Ha, a mother of two children in Hoang Mai District.
"We have to hire a housemaid to take care of my children when we go to work. She gets paid VND3 million ($140) a month. Now we will have to pay much more and I am afraid that it will affect my budget," Ha said.
Nguyen Minh Ngoc, another mother of two from Cau Giay District, did not welcome the decree, worried that with the extra time now set aside for maids, she will have to do more work herself.
"At present, most housemaids are old women who are largely untrained. They have always been happy to work for money only," she said.
However, Dang Duc San, head of the Legal Department at the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said the decree was necessary as the need for housemaids was becoming greater. He said the job had to be done professionally and treated similarly to all other positions.
"The decree is an important foundation for setting up a better relationship between employers and employees, thus creating greater equality," he said.
This writer supports insurance payment for maids as, in the end, they help us create a society where everyone is in a position to take care of their families, children and the elderly. But I would appreciate the law more if it spelled out the responsibilities of both sides more clearly. — VNS