After hearing the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) had proposed the working day should start at 8.30am instead of 8am, many friends of mine could not hide their concern.
Spanning different careers, they kept calling me asking whether the information was true and if it would be approved.
The change could affect their entire families' routines.
Nguyễn Phương Anh who works as administrative employee in Nam Từ Liêm District in Hà Nội, said that every morning, she takes one daughter to primary school another to kindergarten to arrive at her office at 8am.
“If we start half an hour later, it means I will finish work at 5.30pm. I will have to pay for the teachers to look after my kids at school,” she said.
It would cost Anh around VNĐ2 million (US$86) more each month, but her salary would stay the same.
“Traffic would also be an issue and affect working productivity,” said Anh.
Anh and many other residents hope the ministry will listen to public opinion before making a decision.
Labour experts also believe it would be impossible to have fixed working hours for all sectors across provinces and cities.
Nguyễn Trọng An, former director of the Department of Child Affairs under MOLISA, who lived and studied in different parts of the world, said that very few countries had nationwide uniform working hours, including nations with small populations such as Sweden.
Some countries even let their workers choose their working hours flexibly, or work online, as long as they ensured their working results and productivity, he told the Kinh tế & Đô thị (Economic & Urban Affairs) newspaper.
Ngô Văn Minh, a lecturer at the University of Transport and Communications, said that MOLISA should not set fixed working hours. It should be changed based on different localities and different careers.
For instance, in central provinces where the weather is very hot, the working day could start at 7.30am and be changed based on different seasons. It could start at 8am in the summer, and at 8.30am in the winter to ensure people’s health.
Bùi Thị An, chairwoman of the Hà Nội Association for Intellectual Women, praised MOLISA’s efforts to adjust working hours with the aim of connecting different sectors and offices across the country. However, she believed that any adjustment must be based on reality and public approval.
“It would be better if the ministry listened more to public opinion and then make a decision,” she said.
I agree with her.
As a reporter, my daily working hours are flexible, I can even start my work at 9am, just as long as I finish my stories or interviews on time.
There are also several days that I can work away from home each month. I also enjoy those days as I do not waste time travelling from home to my office and struggling with the traffic.
Another proposal from MOLISA has also received differing opinions. The idea is that July 27 - Việt Nam War Invalids and Martyrs' Day - should be designated as a public holiday. The proposal is part of revisions to the Labour Code being drafted by MOLISA. With one more holiday, workers will have a day off to show their gratitude to national service, have a rest and spend more time with their families.
However, some people are worried the holiday will affect productivity, especially in trade enterprises.
In the era of information technology, people have different options to work without strict start and finish times. The most important thing is ensuring workers’ health and results. Instead of thinking how to change working hours, it would be better if we think about how to keep us healthy after a long working day, and how to promote our productivity and efficiency. — VNS