Vietnam domestic workers face high risk of ill-treatment: study

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A research institute has urged the Vietnamese government to improve protection of domestic workers, saying its study found they face a high risk of ill-treatment.

The non-government Research Center for Gender, Family and Environment for Development (GFCD) began a study on domestic workers in 2007 and revealed its results at a conference Wednesday, online newspaper VnExpress reported.

It found that more than 20 percent of help were verbally abused, while 16 percent were sexually abused.

More than 2 percent were beaten and 4 percent were forbidden from communicating with others, nearly 8 percent had their personal documents kept by their employers, and nearly 2 percent were unpaid.

As of 2008 there were 157,000 domestic workers in Vietnam, and the number is expected to reach 246,000 in 2015, according to the National Center for Forecasting and Labor Market Information.

Ngo Thi Ngoc Anh, director of GFCD, said given that most help in Vietnam are women, hail from the countryside, and work in a "small-scale" environment where there are not many people around, they face threats of violence, ill-treatment, and sexual abuse.

The situation is getting "alarming" and needs to be carefully managed, and laws need to be promoted in the media to guarantee the workers' safety, Anh said.

The study also found that most domestic workers are neither trained for the job nor well educated a majority do not graduate from secondary school, 30 percent only finish elementary school, while many are illiterate.

Another problem is that they lack knowledge of laws, according to the study.

Their working conditions and salaries are settled with employers verbally, and they usually work for more than eight hours a day and at night.

Only 3 percent of housekeepers have social insurance, and 19.5 percent have health insurance. But in most cases they pay the insurance on their own or the government pays for them because their families are classified as poor or for other reasons.

GFCD said the government should spell out the issues related to the job and improve oversight of the industry. 

The center's opinions were echoed by experts who attended the conference, VnExpress reported.

Bui Sy Loi, deputy chairman of the National Assembly's Social Affairs Commission, said it is necessary to acknowledge domestic work as a proper occupation and provide training to workers and post-training certificates.

It is also necessary to treat domestic workers on a par with workers in other sectors, he said.

Deputy Minister of Labors, War Invalids and Social Affairs Pham Minh Huan said GFCD's proposals are "reasonable" and promised his ministry would work on the laws and help improve public awareness to protect domestic help.

It won't be long before domestic work is treated like other jobs, he said.

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