Situated next to National Road 1A in Que Xuan Commune, Ba Ren Market has been known locally for more than 40 years as one of Vietnam's biggest suppliers of breeding pigs. From 4 a.m. to 11 a.m. every day, prospective buyers from cities and provinces wide and far crowd the market. Photos credit: Minh Hoang/Zing.vn
This is also the working hours for about 20 women who have become known as “pig carriers.” Each day, the women are paid to carry pigs hundreds of meters from the market to buyers’ cars. They earn only between VND500-2,000 for each pig they transport, depending on its weight.
Be, who has been working as a pig carrier for more than 10 years, said the job demands good health, hard work and brute strength. "When I was a newcomer, I could not stand the smell of the pig poop and piss that lingered on my clothes, but I just got used to it gradually,” she said.
"The hardest thing is that when it rains, pigs become slippery. If they get away and we cannot get them back, we have to borrow money to compensate the traders.”
And it isn’t easy to carry a 25-30kg pig. According to the women, a pig carrier must be strong and learn how to firmly grasp the swine under their elbows and around their bellies.
Loi, another transporter, said when her husband died more than five years ago, she took up her trade as a way to provide for her three children. "I carry about 40 big and small pigs every day, earning an average of over VND40,000, which is not enough to support my family,” she said.
Although the job only offers meager pay, it at least provides a stable income for the women, most of whom are widowed and have to support their families on their own, Tran Thi Hai, a trader, said.
Some of the women have been lugging pigs for decades. Dinh Thi Lien, 77, who had been in the business for 20 years before retiring recently, said she now earns money by collecting leftover straw used for lining pig cages that is often left behind by buyers. She then will burn the straw and package the ash to sell as fertilizer.
Original Vietnamese story can be found here