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Over 30 million Vietnamese workers bear brunt of coronavirus pandemic

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HCMC – By the end of June this year, some 30.8 million Vietnamese people aged 15 and above had suffered the scourge of the novel coronavirus, according to a quarterly labor survey.

The survey was released last week by the General Statistics Office of Vietnam with the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) technical support.

In a statement, Chang-Hee Lee, director of the ILO in Vietnam, called for concerted efforts among the Government, workers’ and employers’ organizations to save jobs and protect vulnerable workers as the pandemic is taking a toll on the country’s labor force.

The survey found that the labor force had reached a record low level. It shrank by 2.2 million people compared to the previous quarter and by 2.4 million people compared to the same period last year.

This was higher in rural areas and among the female workforce, according to the survey.

“The labor market in the second quarter of 2020 suffered from a mix of elements,” said Valentina Barcucci, ILO Vietnam’s Labor Economist.

The preventive social distancing period at the beginning of the quarter quickly brought the virus under control, with a limited impact on the domestic market compared to what other countries have experienced.

“However, impacts are unavoidable due to the scale of the necessary measures adopted. On the other hand, lockdowns in other countries and border closures in the last quarter have dealt a strong blow to Vietnam’s economy and jobs,” she added.

The pandemic has reduced economic activity in some sectors, such as services, industry and construction, to unprecedented levels.

“As a result, we see workers who have lost their jobs but are not looking for new jobs, probably because there are not many opportunities around,” Barcucci pointed out.

This is the first time in the last five years that the income of workers in the second quarter recorded a year-on-year decrease. The average monthly income of workers during this period was VND5.2 million, down by 5.1% against the previous year.

“And the most vulnerable sections in the labor market are bearing the brunt of the economic impact of the pandemic,” said Barcucci.

Informal workers suffered a greater loss than formal workers, as their monthly income dropped by 8.4% and 4.7% year-on-year, respectively. The higher the qualification of workers, the lower was their reduction in income.

The second quarter of 2020 also saw the highest unemployment rate over the last decade at 2.73%, with the biggest increase noticed among low-skilled workers.

However, director of ILO Vietnam Chang-Hee Lee noted that Vietnam is better positioned than most other countries to overcome the economic and labor market challenges, just as it did with the public health crisis.

Stimulating the economy and jobs; supporting enterprises, employment and incomes; protecting workers at the workplace and using social dialogue between the Government, workers and employers to find solutions are what Vietnam would need to persistently continue, he said.

“It’s time for the Government, employers and workers to unite to develop and roll out evidence-based policies and measures to help the country come out of this crisis in an even better shape than it was when it started,” he added.

At the global level, the ILO’s latest monitor estimated that there was a 14% drop in working hours around the world during the second quarter of 2020, equivalent to the loss of 400 million full-time jobs based on a 48-hour working week.

By Gia Phong

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