Vietnamese youth face recurrent unemployment

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Young people are finding it harder than other age groups to get jobs in Vietnam , and this does not augur well for their future, experts say.

The 2011-2020 Vietnam Employment Strategy report estimates the unemployment rate among youths aged 15-24 at around 7 percent over the last decade, compared to the overall rate of 2.88 percent.

Andrea Salvini, an economist with the International Labor Organization (ILO) Country Office for Vietnam, said: "When the country moves up the ladder of economic development, and traditional family structures of household business engaging in subsistence agriculture change, young workers are those most exposed to phenomena of joblessness."

He said high youth unemployment presents high individual and social costs. Individual costs refer to income losses and lack of capitalization of work experience while social costs refer to a reduction in the degree of use of human capital and of the labor force for the society as a whole.

Poor employment outcomes early in life are often the first steps for recurrent unemployment and inactivity later in life, Salvini said.

Phan Ngoc Mai Phuong, deputy director of the Development and Strategy Institute, said the youth unemployment rate is likely to get more serious with 1.5-1.6 million young people entering working age every year.

Underemployment is also pervasive and serious in Vietnam, particularly in rural areas. In 2009, every five out of 100 working persons were underemployed, and in rural areas the ratio was six for every 100, she said.

Several limitations including access to training, quality of training and imbalances between training provided and market needs will continue to remain stumbling blocks to this generation, Phuong said.

Assessing the employment situation in Vietnam, Jose Manuel Salazar, executive director of the ILO Employment Sector in Geneva, said, "Most Vietnamese workers are still engaged in the rural sector with low productivity. A shift in the structure of the economy away from agriculture characterized massive movements of workers to the manufacturing activities and to cities' industrial parks."

He said informal employment also grew, in urban and semi-urban areas. "Unemployment is but the tip of the iceberg, and many more work in difficult conditions, with low earnings, and little protection."

Salvini said labor market policies should be supplemented by other services such as vocational training, career guidance and counseling, as well as unemployment subsidies. In times of economic contractions, workers should be able to access employment through public works, he said.

Vietnam is expected to have an additional 9.5 million people joining the labor force in the next 10 years, and needs to create 15.3 million new jobs during the period, according to the job department under the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs.

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