Businesses struggle to keep workers as exports slow
Workers during a shift at a footwear company located in HCM City.
Declining demand in major export markets such as the EU and the US has resulted in fewer orders this year, traditionally the busiest time for textile, footwear and handicraft exporters.
As businesses were forced to decrease production, lay-off and reduced hours have been the norm. Re-hiring workers often means re-training, however, it may prove to be very costly once demand bounces back, according to labour experts.
Trần Thanh Hải, vice president of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL), said nearly a quarter of a million textile, footwear and handicraft workers were not working full shifts. The situation could be much worse because reporting from lower-level organisations remained spotty at best.
VGCL said things won't likely improve any time soon, at least from now until the end of the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday.
Nguyễn Đình Cường, vice president of VGCL's HCM City Office, said nearly 100 businesses in the southern economic hub's Thủ Đức District alone said they had not enough orders to keep production running at full-throttle. Some have resorted to rotary layoffs for the next three months with those on leave receiving a part of their salaries.
Phạm Quang Anh, CEO of a textile maker in Bình Chánh District, HCM City, said his company received 20-50 per cent fewer orders since August, compared to last year.
"We have not been able to turn a profit. Our top priority right now is to keep our workers as it can be prohibitively expensive to re-hire and re-train a large number of workers once we manage to secure large orders again," he said.
Kiều Văn Đồng, head of a labour union in a wood product company in Biên Hòa City, said this time last year, the company had over 1,700 workers working full-time but as of now, there were just 650.
"During the pandemic, we often had to deal with a shortage of workers, not orders. Now it's the opposite," Đồng said.
Labour and industry experts said it has been much worse than during the COVID-19 pandemic.
They urged businesses to strengthen collaboration to find suitable jobs for idle workers. Meanwhile, workers said they were willing to work in less hours and sign into rotary-layoffs to keep their jobs to maintain their social security eligibility.