March 13, 2009: The tens of thousands of Vietnamese working abroad are being hit from two sides – first by many unscrupulous employers, and second by job losses spurred by ailing corporations’ financial woes. As the global economic meltdown intensifies, the Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA) is beginning to receive more reports about businesses exploiting Vietnamese workers. Some of these businesses are trying to send workers home to Vietnam without proper compensation for early termination of their contracts.
In Malaysia, the Ministry of Human Resources has reported that 15,000 workers were laid off as of January 31 of this year, most from the manufacturing sector. The ministry has also received notice from a business asking to lay off another 9,000 workers, 6,000 of whom are from Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Vietnam
Theoretically, workers who are repatriated before completing their employment contract will receive Vietnamese government aid of up to US$295.00.
“In the near future, we will consider opening the aid fund to Vietnamese workers abroad,” Nguyen Thanh Hoa, head of Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Welfare, told the domestic press. “It is necessary to guarantee the rights of workers abroad; we can’t allow the poor to go work abroad only to come home with nothing, but still accumulating debt.”
Ironically, it is the cozy relationship between the Vietnamese labor export firms, the government, and the domestic media that has lured Vietnamese workers abroad, only to be twice sucker-punched: once by abusive employers, and again by the global economic crisis. It remains to be seen whether the Vietnamese government’s promises of aid to repatriated workers will be kept. CAMSA continues to monitor the situation.