by Minh Huong
Every one wants a better life, which is why more and more rural women head for the bigger cities as part of the vast urbanisation process.
But, while the opportunity to get ahead might improve, there is less opportunity for marriage because of the hours of work required to get ahead on little more than basic salaries.
One example is Nguyen Thi Dung, 32, who moved from northern Lang Son Province to become a print worker in Ha Noi.
"One man wants to marry me," Dung said, "but I am so busy with my work.
"Some men used to follow me, but they stopped as I did not have time for them, I want to send money home so I must work at night."
Dung is attractive, with long straight hair, white teeth and toned physique, but she works 12 hours per day and doesn t have free time to hang out with men.
She can earn an extra VND1.5 million (US$83) if she works 15 nights per month.
Dung said she wanted a husband and children but she also wanted more money to buy a business in her home town
"I can have enough money to invest in a small shop in Lang Son if I work like this for the next five years, but who will want me then."
Cao Thi Hau, 20, has a different story. Hau had chance to find a husband in her small town in the northern mountainous Hoa Binh Province s district of Luong Son, but there was no one there who appealed to her.
Hau now works as a domestic helper in Ha Noi and has saved VND60 million ($3,300) in four years, enough for her to invest in a business in her home province.
But she ignores her family s call to return home.
"No, I don t want to marry a rural man who considers his wife to be a slave, to do housework, and a tool to produce children," Hau said.
Hau said she would have a better opportunity to hang out with men if she worked in a cafe or as a hairdresser but she would face the risk of being cheated or abandoned by uncaring men.
"Some of my friends worked at cafes, had boyfriends, fell in love, got pregnant and then were betrayed. They made me scared of taking such jobs, though it could bring me more money and the chance of love."
When those girls went back to their hometowns, they were not welcomed by the local men and remained alone.
"With the traditional thinking in my village, if they lost their virginity they did not deserve to be married."
Hau said being a domestic worker also carried risks, such as harassment by the man in the family.
"Some domestic helpers are seduced by the husbands and sometimes the girls are the ones who do the seducing."
Hau said she hadn t been in such a situation yet.
"But it might be difficult to say no if you are young and lonely in a big city, and having learnt so many things from television.
"Domestic helpers are vulnerable in their situation because they face losing their jobs and being looked down on."
Last month, a report on the socio-economic impacts of WTO accession on rural women in Hai Duong and Dong Thap provinces followed a survey of 250 women. It concluded there was little chance of marriage for rural women working in cities.
Annalise Moser of the UN Development Fund for Women said there were no facilities for a large-scale survey and although the study covered women in two areas within two provinces, it was rich with feedback from policymakers and development workers.
Institute for Labour Science and Social Affairs researcher Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy said urbanisation improved the quality of lives for women and their roles as money earners in their families, it reduced their chances of marriage and affected their emotional lives.
Thuy recommended organisations such as women s unions or youth associations organise meeting opportunities for such rural workers to improve dating opportunities.
However, there was no solution for free workers like domestic helpers, even though they were considerable in number.
"I do not have their problem," Thuy said, "but know most women need a family to live with and dedicate themselves to.
"Without a family, what would a woman earn money for?" VNS