Labor export plans for the year have been thwarted by the narrowing of some major markets after escalated violence in Libya and by the increasing number of laborers decamping in South Korea.
Vietnam may lose South Korea, one of its biggest labor export markets, due to the high number of laborers decamping in the country, industry insiders warn.
Up to 8,500 out of 60,000 Vietnamese people working in South Korea since 2004 have decamped, according to the Overseas Labor Management Department. It said 49 percent of 8,000 workers whose labor contracts have expired this year have not returned home, but stayed in South Korea for illegal work.
Due to the situation, the testing of Korean language skills for Vietnamese guest workers, which was planned for August 7, was cancelled, said Dao Cong Hai, deputy head of the department.
The unstable political situation in Libya has also dealt a big blow to labor export plans, as it was seen as a market with high potential.
The government had targeted sending 5,000-7,000 employees to Libya each year, contributing to generating jobs and increasing income for the local workforce, especially among the poor and ethnic minorities.
Libya used to be an attractive market also because its firms could offer better salaries than some other markets. Each worker received a minimum monthly salary of about VND8 million (US$380), said Nguyen Luong Trao, chairman of the Vietnam Labor Export Association.
As the North African country descended into violence, Vietnam recalled all of its 10,000 workers in the country earlier this year.
"Losing the Libyan market has caused big losses. The government has spent over VND100 billion ($4.8 million) to safely bring the workers home," said Nguyen Xuan Vui, general director of labor export firm Airseco. "North Africa and the Middle East used to be our main markets. Now, due to worry about the expanding political crisis in the region, we have to cancel our plans on sending workers to these markets."
Vui's firm now focuses on Japan and Malaysia. However, it is not easy, as Japan, which offers good salaries, takes in only about 4,000 people each year. Meanwhile, it has strict requirements on Japanese language and working skills for foreign workers that are difficult to meet.
Dang Huy Hong, general director of labor export firm Sona, said there are now only two markets that are receiving a large number of Vietnamese workers Taiwan and Malaysia. However, it is difficult to find enough workers for these markets because the low incomes offered are not very attractive.
Nguyen Thi Mai, 25, of Nam Dinh Province, said she earned some VND6 million per month working as a nurse in Taiwan. After expenses, the rest could barely cover what she had to pay as commission, documentation and travel expenses to work abroad.
Mai said she had no savings when she returned home after two years.
Meanwhile, many workers have not been able to go abroad because they are not able to pay recruiters' fees and other expenses.
Hong of Sona said many labor exporters have been unable to reach their goals this year. He said his firm had planned to send some 2,500 workers abroad in 2011, but it has implemented only 20 percent of the target in the first eight months.
Vietnam plans to send 85,000 workers abroad this year. Around 23 percent of 60,500 local workers sent abroad in the first eight months were to South Korea.