Illegal foreign workers a problem
VietNamNet Bridge – Many foreigners working in Viet Nam lack work permits, Nguyen Van Tien, deputy inspector in the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs tells the Hai Quan (Customs) newspaper.
What is your stand on the fact that many foreigners work in Viet Nam without work permits?
This problem has been going on in our country for many years. Even today, we don't know how many foreigners are working in Viet Nam without work permits.
A key factor why many foreign firms hire only foreigners is said to be that the Vietnamese workers don't have the required skills and their work discipline is poor. I don't agree.
It is indisputable that certain jobs such as installing scaffolding foundations at a depth of over 10m or work which requires high tenacity for a long period of time are too demanding for the Vietnamese workers.
Regarding discipline, I agree that there are some weaknesses among the Vietnamese workers. But it is the responsibility of all parties to abide by Vietnamese laws. There is no exception. I'm sure that if the Vietnamese workers are properly trained, they will be on par with their peers in the region.
How are some projects able to hire too many foreign workers?
In some countries, the law on the recruitment of foreign workers is very strict. The number of foreign workers in a project is set at less than 3 per cent of the labour force. The criteria for selecting them are very tight. They must be experts, engineers or technicians working in areas or jobs that the local workers cannot do.
However, in our country things work differently. For "tender packages" the bid winners — foreign tenders — are free to decide on how many foreign nationals they would hire. This is a loophole in our laws. A case in point is the Chinese projects. People working in these projects are mostly Chinese, including their support staff.
What is the responsibility of local governments where such projects are located?
Under our laws, the local authorities are empowered to grant work permits to foreigners working in their localities. However, due to the policy of giving preferential treatment to foreign investors, many local authorities have turned a blind eye to foreigners working without permits in their localities. The Circular No 03, issued by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, states clearly that the Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs in each province and city has the responsibility of checking and inspecting the employment and management of foreign nationals in their locality. But the document does have a single line about what would happen if the employer violates the law!
What should we do to curb the increasing number of illegal foreign workers in our country?
We highly appreciate high-skilled foreign workers. They are mostly good people and respect our laws. But we have to be strict with those who don't have proper work permits, particularly unskilled workers.
For project packages which are executed by foreign nationals, in my opinion, Vietnamese project owners and state management agencies must take action to force the foreign firms to give priority to Vietnamese nationals in recruitment.
What should we do about foreign workers without work permits?
Top on the action list is to deport them. Among other measures, I think we should impose heavy fines on the employers and publicise the firms' names in the mass media.