August 27, 2008: While we wait for the details of the PTA settlement to be made public, here’s a snapshot of the kinds of ploys that have made it easy to dupe Vietnamese workers into taking out huge loans to pay labor export firms for jobs abroad.
The problem is partly one of government control over the media. For almost a decade, opportunities abroad have been painted in golden terms, as in this translated excerpt from a Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) article from February 27, 2001:
Neighbors Who Get Rich by Working Abroad
In the hamlet of Trung Lập Thượng, Nguyễn Văn Chinh has been dubbed “Chinh Japan” by his three children. When we [the reporters] arrive, Chinh is bustling around with a load of tiles, preparing for the construction of a large-scale house that will be built next to his old one.
Chinh says that he has five children, and that up until 1998, they simply worked their fields. In 1998, his oldest daughter finished her studies to be a seamstress, but found no work anywhere. At that time, his hamlet was full of talk of working abroad, so Chinh cobbled together 5 million đồng and mobilized his family and friends to take out loans to raise 35 million more to send his daughter to work in Japan. With a base salary of 8 million đồng per month, with other supplementary income, within three months Chinh’s daughter had sent enough money home to pay off the debt.
A year later, using money sent from Japan, Chinh was able to send yet another daughter to Japan. From then on, Chinh’s family has had an additional monthly income of 20 million đồng!
The article goes on to assert that “Cases like that of Chinh are not rare in society today,” without offering anything to substantiate the claim that most, or even the majority, of the exported laborers do more than enrich companies abroad, as well as Vietnam’s banks and labor export firms.
The troubles faced by workers like many of those sent to Jordan and Malaysia – wage scams, brutally long working hours, poor living and working conditions, humiliations, denial of the right to organize, and even physical abuse – are not mentioned at all in the article. Instead, the reporters recite a tempting list of rewards purchased with overseas wages by the scant number of workers they interview: motorbikes, land, land, and more land.
With the official media carrying stories like this since 2001, it’s small wonder that today’s workers, raised to dream of going abroad for easy money, are easy prey.