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Domestic helpers at a disadvantage

The Government's Decree 103, which takes effect this month, increases regional minimum wages for helpers employed by businesses, co-operatives, farms, households and individuals by VND250,000-350,000 per month.

VietNamNet Bridge – The Government's Decree 103, which takes effect this month, increases regional minimum wages for helpers employed by businesses, co-operatives, farms, households and individuals by VND250,000-350,000 per month.

A domestic helper at work in HCM City. Domestic workers will be at a disadvantage if disputes with their employers occur as they rarely have formal written contracts. — VNS Photo Courtesy of

Accordingly, each worker of this kind will receive between VND1.6 million and VND2.3 million (US$78-109) depending on where they work.

But Dao Thi Phuong, an hourly domestic helper living on Lang Road, Ha Noi, told Viet Nam News that she had never heard of the regulation.

Moreover, Phuong said, she had never had a written contract with any family that she worked for.

Nguyen Thi Thu Hien, a resident of Hoang Mai District, Ha Noi who works as manager for a group of cleaners, said domestic workers were not actually under the Government's management, so it stood to reason they would be unaware of the decree.

Both Phuong and Hien said, however, that their incomes were higher than the minimum salaries regulated by the decree.

Nguyen Van San, director of the Social Insurance Administration of Ha Noi's central Hoan Kiem District said more than 90 per cent of domestic helpers only had informal agreements with families they worked for and a majority of such workers did not have social insurance.

"Because there is no formal agreement," San said, "domestic helpers will be at a disadvantage if disputes with their employers occur."

In order for the rights of domestic workers to be better protected, San added, they should contribute part of their incomes every month to social insurance and families should help their employees register for temporary residency.

But in reality, this rarely occurred.

The new Labour Code adopted last June recognises domestic work as a profession for the first time. It also includes specific clauses governing this type of labour, stating that domestic workers and their employers needed to have written contracts, allowing domestic workers to terminate their labour contracts 15 days earlier and prohibiting verbal abuse, violence and sexual harassment towards domestic workers.

Experts said, however, that protecting the rights of domestic workers remained a challenge.

Pham Minh Huan, Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) told the media that managing domestic workers was "a big issue for Viet Nam" due to the increasing demand for them, and that implementing the new clauses was no easy task.

Nguyen Kim Lan, national programme co-ordinator in gender and employment of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), said that laws concerning domestic workers must be made more specific. Lan said the ILO had proposed issuing detailed guidance for the implementation of the labour code governing domestic workers.

"Specific definitions and management mechanisms must be included in the guidelines," Lan added.

Theoretically, domestic workers are under the management of MoLISA, but no specific State agency is responsible for carrying out laws regarding these labourers.

Lan said there were no associations for domestic workers either.

Deputy Minister Huan told the media that the ministry was drafting guidelines for the implementation of the Labour Code clauses concerning domestic workers, which would start in May.

According to the ILO, Viet Nam currently has no full records on domestic workers, but the demand for them continues to increase as the middle class grows.

A 2011 survey conducted by MoLISA and ILO showed that 46 per cent of households in Ha Noi and HCM City hired domestic workers – double the 2000 percentage.

Nearly 91 per cent of those surveyed were women, many of them migrant workers.

Source: VNS


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