VietNamNet Bridge – Viet Nam is a mix of old and new customs and ideas, especially at holiday time. It's usual at this time of year for everyone to get a little more money. This is either to reward them for hard work over the past year or, in the case of casual workers, to pay them much more for cleaning, painting and repairing homes and business premises so that the new year gets off to an auspicious start. In many streets around Ha Noi, groups of men and women seeking work stand around, usually next to their ageing bicycles, hoping for someone to hire them. It's the lucky festive season. Christmas is only a few days away and Tet (lunar new year) is just around the corner. Everybody seems ready to pay to have their homes cleaned. It's part of tradition to clean-out the house, give it a Spring clean, pay any outstanding debts - then sit back and enjoy.
Some say casual workers are luckier than State employees, who often get a bonus plus a month's salary about this time of year. For a month or two, part timers can often get two to three times their normal daily rates.
But this year, many businesses, including some State enterprises, complain they are having difficulties paying salaries, plus the customary reward, to their employees. Nguyen Hoang Lam, director of the Thanh Dong Wrapping Manufacturing Company in Ha Noi's Hoang Mai District, said the economic crisis had lowered his company's revenue in the past year, and he was worried that he could not offer his workers the "13th month salary" as it is known. "I'm worried that some of my workers will leave after the holidays because of the lack of reward, but I have tried my best," he said.
Meanwhile, Vu Thu Ha, an accountant with a Ha Noi-based State company, said that her company's bonus for the Tet holiday might be only a third of that given last year. On average, each employee with her company will get VND500,000 (US$23) for the holiday. "I get only a small reward, but I must pay a lavish salary and reward for my domestic helper, otherwise she would refuse to work for me," said Ha.
To welcome Tet, Ha will pay her helper the 13th month salary of VND2.5 million ($119) - plus heaps of confectionery, jams and clothes for her, her children and her husband. Ha's household assistant does well, like most freelance workers.
Nguyen Xuan Nghia, a day labourer from Hai Phong City who boards in Ha Noi's Thanh Xuan District, said more and more families had asked him to repaint their houses or repair doors and windows to welcome the holidays. Nghia earns VND1.4 million ($66) a week, which is equal to a month's salary for his wife who works for a company in Hai Phong.
Although freelance workers can earn much more during special holidays, their work is seasonal job only and their income returns to its normal low level when the holidays end. One of the bosses at the Ha Noi Job Placement Centre, Pham Van Thuc, said demand for cleaners, porters or household assistants increased by 50-100 per cent at this time of year, but work becomes harder to find after the holiday season.
Chief Inspector with the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Van Tien said the Tet holidays were a good opportunity workers from other provinces and students. "Many youths take advantage of the holiday to earn some money and acquire social experiences and communication skills," he said.
Domestic workers, cleaners, painters and porters may be well paid during the holidays, but they still lack training and face high risk of unemployment after a month or two. Tien said that in a stable economy and society, it was essential for all workers to have proper qualifications and skills.
This year casual workers may be doing much better than many State employees, but in the long run, their haphazard employment rate prevents them from making proper health and savings plans for their families.
All people should be able to look forward to good training, stable work and social welfare and thus provide a better future for themselves and their children.
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News