Workers quit factories for more cushy jobs, labor shortage ensues

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After the Tet holidays, Tran Thi Phuong from northern Nam Dinh Province did not return to the Hanoi-based garment firm where she had worked for several years.

The 28-year-old woman has found a new job at a mobile phone shop in the capital.

"I have to work more hours every day but my income is higher and the work is less hard," she said.

Phuong is one of many migrant workers who did not return to their jobs in big cities after Tet (Lunar New Year) and instead sought jobs in their hometowns or simply better conditions and salaries with other employers in the city.

At Truong Kieu Company, a machine producer in Hanoi, just over half of its employees have returned since Tet.

"I am not sure whether the workers have given up their jobs or not. However, we are very worried about the current number of workers. The employee shortage may slash our production progress," said company director Truong Van Thong.

Like Truong Kieu, many firms in the city now face a scarcity of workers, especially manual laborers. They are intensely recruiting workers, and in Hanoi's industrial parks, job vacancy announcements are posted everywhere on company gates, trees and electric poles but most have gone unanswered.

Most of the enterprises want to employ people, mainly females, for work in factories that produce garments, woodwork, footwear, steel and electronic products. At the Thang Long Industrial Park, which houses mostly foreign-invested firms, some 20 enterprises have announced new recruitment campaigns seeking hundreds of employees each.

A staff member at the Hanoi Industrial Parks and Processing Zones Management Board said firms in the industrial parks need to employ some 10,000 laborers this year. But the staff member, who wished to go unnamed, was not optimistic about the possibility of meeting the demand.

The situation is the same in Dong Nai Province, which neighbors Ho Chi Minh City. Lam Duy Tin, vice director of the province's Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, said firms in his locality have not fully reported the number of workers giving up their jobs after Tet, nor have they released information on their post-Tet manpower needs.

He said some laborers from the central province of Quang Ngai did not return to firms in Dong Nai, and instead had sought new jobs near home at the Dung Quat Economic Zone, where the Dung Quat Oil Refinery is based. He also said workers from the north-central provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh had gone to Laos to work with hopes of higher incomes.

The resignations have made garment, footwear, and electronic companies struggle for workers even as they receive rising numbers of orders after Tet.

According to the [Dong Nai] province's Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, firms in the locality need some 70,000 new employees this year, 75 percent of them for garment and footwear enterprises.

Dang Thanh Quang, head of the Labor Office at Bac Ninh Province's Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, said most laborers at Bac Ninh firms were local residents, or those coming from neighboring provinces, so companies there had not lost so many workers to jobs elsewhere.

However, laborers often leave for other jobs with higher salaries at the province's many craft villages and bigger manufacturers are thus still facing a labor shortage. Many firms need to hire thousands of laborers, Quang said.

Enterprises have lowered their employment requirements in an effort to recruit, he said. "Workers only need to have graduated junior high school, instead of high school as before."

However, the most important factor in attracting employees is a proper salary, said Quang.

Nguyen Dinh Trong from Hanoi's Ha Dong District has just given up his job at a construction firm. "Nobody wants to change jobs frequently. However, the most important thing to workers like me is the income. I will keep working only if the salary is enough to live on," he said.

"However, many firms do not want to raise salaries even though prices are increasing."

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