I once worked for a state agency in the past. With the salary coefficient of 2.67 reserved for officers with a master’s degree and lunch allowance of VND600,000, I earned VND5.6 million a month.

However, I left the public sector after eight months of working there and shifted to work for a private company which offered pay of VND15 million.

My story of some years ago was not alone. Society is now witnessing a wave of workers shifting from the public to private sector.

Warning bell

A report shows that 6,000 civil servants and public employees in HCM City resigned from their posts from January 1, 2020 to June 30, 2022. In Da Nang City, more than 300 workers in the public sector quit their jobs in H1.

The reason behind this is the big gap in salaries between the public and private sectors.

Analysts noted that the number of workers leaving the public sector in recent months is higher than before because of a number of problems. The mass resignation occurred after the Covid-19 pandemic, and the departure occurred mostly in the healthcare sector.

In 2020-2021, Vietnam made every effort to fight the pandemic. It had to mobilize big forces of civil servants and public employees, including medical workers, soldiers, policemen, students and volunteers, and used many resources from all levels of government, from the central to grassroots levels.

That harsh period showed unfavorable working conditions for the workers. Meanwhile, recently, the violations of some organizations and individuals, to some extent, have caused harm to staff in these sectors. In such conditions, salaries are not deserving of their heavy work. 

Meanwhile, the private sector offers good working conditions and wages. Therefore, many staff left.

In fact, the movement from the public sector to private sector is quite normal. This is a natural phenomenon of socio-economic life and shows dynamism, and the multifaceted attraction of the non-state sector. There is also a movement of workers from the private sector to the public sector to devote themselves to the public. However, the number of such individuals is still very modest.

Not only in Vietnam, but in any other countries, the pay and bonus regimes in the public sector are not comparable to the private sector. However, the mass resignation of a high number of public employees within a short time is really a problem worth thinking about. This gives an alarm to managers to reconsider the wage regime.

Wage reform especially needs to be enhanced in public sectors with service and social security nature – tourism, education, healthcare, insurance and rescue.

In order to restrict the brain drain to the private sector, the State needs to include wage reform in the National Assembly’s agenda in the upcoming session to urgently resolve problems. The by-law documents such as decrees, circulars and plans still cannot solve problems to the root. It is necessary to develop legislation at the highest law level and give decision-making power to subjects associated with legal responsibilities.

The State should conduct a review of the fields and sectors with specific characteristics, and design ‘open’ mechanisms which allow the agencies to be creative and build competitiveness in the new conditions. It is also necessary to continue to implement administrative reform, streamline the apparatus and payroll so as to increase salaries for the remaining personnel in the public sector.

Vietnam has spent a relatively long time on downsizing the workforce and restructuring the workforce to make it effective. Vietnam has also gained encouraging results in fighting embezzlement and wrongdoings. The achievements help carry out wage reform more easily.

When the state apparatus becomes more compact and corruption is almost eliminated, the issue of increasing wages for civil servants and public employees is one of the pillars of the building of an institution which "doesn’t want and doesn’t need embezzlement”, as mentioned by the Party.

The mass resignation of civil servants and public employees, plus a number of basic political tasks, have created a fundamental premise to carry out the wage regime for employees in the public sector. This cannot be delayed any further.

Cu Van Trung (PhD in Politics)