City prepares for tough law on foreign workers

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Deportation, higher fines included in new decree regulating employment of foreign workers

A foreign worker at a construction site in Ho Chi Minh City. Local authorities in Ho Chi Minh are seeking to strengthen coordination among different agencies to better manage foreign workers in the city.

Ho Chi Minh City authorities are looking to improve coordination between concerned agencies at different administrative levels as a new decree with tougher work permit stipulations takes effect next week.

Under Decree 47, effective June 25, foreign workers will be deported if they have been working in Vietnam for more than three months without a work permit and the workers and their employers will also face higher fines for violations of the law.

The city's Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (DoLISA) has submitted draft regulations aimed at improving management of foreign workers to the People's Committee for approval.

The draft regulations will place the department in charge of intensifying inspections of companies, organizations and individuals using foreign workers through its district branches in coordination with the police. It will also make recommendations to the police on deporting illegal foreign workers.

DoLISA Deputy Director Nguyen Van Xe said the agency had issued work permits to 600 foreigners in the first four months of this year, increasing the total so far to 16,200.

However, Xe said the number of foreign workers in HCMC is actually much larger.

"There has been no management of foreign workers working as housekeepers in high-end apartments, daily laborers and small traders," he said, adding that the draft regulations would make it easier to inspect and manage the field with better coordination among involved agencies.


At a recent meeting to discuss the draft document, many labor officials agreed to ask for support from the city police.

Nguyen Thanh Huu, head of District 7's Labor Division, said they had asked 103 local firms to report on any use of foreign workers for a survey but only 13 of them responded.

It was even worse in District 12 where none of the 100 local companies reported about the issue in a similar survey.

Another survey by DoLISA also received just a few hundred responses after asking some 2,000 foreign invested companies to report about their foreign workers.

On the other hand, Binh Tan District Labor Agency has surveyed the issue successfully thanks to support from the district police. The agency reported about 900 Chinese companies and 290 Taiwanese ones operating in the district with a majority of registered foreign workers. However, information of illegal foreign workers in the locality was yet to be made available.

Increasing breaches

Nguyen Thi Dan, head of DoLISA labor section, said there has been an increase in the number of foreign workers migrating to HCMC to work in many fields.

"Employers have many ploys to avoid being detected using illegal workers by claiming they are visiting relatives or covering up their salary records," she said. "It's difficult for labor authorities to manage this issue by themselves."

A HCMC People's Committee report found there were more than 18,000 foreign workers in the city by the end of 2009 from 73 countries and territories with 59 percent of the workers from Asian countries, led by China, Japan and South Korea.

The report also said 16,055 of these workers are required to have work permits while authorities had only issued 13,836 work permits thus far. This means 2,219 foreign workers were working illegally in the city, it said.

DoLISA inspectors said they had found violations at most of the 171 companies employing foreign workers in 2009.

Limiting foreign workers

In a bid to increase job opportunities for locals, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung last month signed a document that requires bidders to prioritize employment of local workers in projects wholly or partially funded by the government.

According to the instruction, investors cannot sign contracts allowing bidders to use foreign workers when local workers can meet the job descriptions

For buying equipment for these projects, investors are only allowed to invite international bids if locally made products are unavailable or the sponsor requests purchase of specific equipment in projects using official development assistance (ODA) funds.

In construction projects, international bidding can only be held in case local bidders cannot meet relevant requirements or under specific request from ODA providers.


The current fine limit has been doubled to VND20 million (US$1,055) for individuals and firms employing foreign workers who are under 18 years old, fail to meet health requirements, do not belong to the managerial or expert cadre, or do not have a work permit when it is required.

Employers failing to notify and update relevant agencies about foreign employees can be fined between VND20 million and VND30 million.

Foreign workers will be deported if they have been working in Vietnam for more than three months without a work permit.

Companies are required to make efforts to train locals instead of hiring foreign workers in the hi-tech sector and other areas where there are currently no qualified locals.

Foreigners do not require a permit if they are members of limited companies that have two or more members, owners of one-member limited companies, board members of joint stock companies, promoters of specific services, or lawyers permitted by the Ministry of Justice to work in Vietnam.

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