Vietnam seeks to put off switch to living wage

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The labor ministry is considering delaying a push for a living wage, news website VnExpress has reported.

The current minimum wage in the foreign-invested and domestic private sectors is only half the amount required for basic expenses, while in the state sector it is around 70 percent, officials admitted at a recent meeting of the National Assembly's Social Affairs Committee.

The Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs has submitted a proposal to increase it to a level adequate for basic living needs by 2015, but it is now considering putting off the deadline, fearing employers cannot afford it that early.

The minimum wage is now set at VND1.65-2.35 million (US$78.9-112.4) per month.

Le Xuan Thanh, deputy head of the Department of Labor and Wage, said the ministry is mulling two alternatives -- to put it off to 2016 or to 2017 -- but prefers the former.

But he said labor unions need to help workers negotiate wages since employers are often reluctant to pay workers well.

Last year workers struck work 506 times, mostly to protest against low wages, he added.     

Bui Sy Loi, deputy head of the Social Affairs Committee, suggested reducing the size of government so that its employees could be paid more.

"The number of government workers is growing, but work productivity is falling," he pointed out, adding that a cut is the "most important" need now.

The committee plans to hold a conference on April 26 to further discuss wage issues.

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