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High-salaried markets a tough nut for Vietnamese to crack   2008-09-26 - TBKTSG

A Korean language class for laborers in Gia Lai Province prepares them to work in South Korea, which this year will accept 12,000 workers from Vietnam.  
Vietnam labor exports have made progress this year but are yet to find a firm foothold in high-paying markets which require skills Vietnamese workers simply don’t have.



Over the first eight months of this year, the country exported around 58,000 workers, meeting 65 percent of the year’s target. Most of the workers who found jobs offshore are working as unskilled laborers.

Exporting these workers is the first concern of the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs in order to “meet the world’s demand and to bring rural people out of poverty,” said Dao Cong Hai, deputy head of the ministry’s Overseas Labor Management Office.

At the same time, the ministry is trying to break into high-end markets like Japan or Singapore where well-trained workers get paid higher and can therefore send more money home, he said.

In Japan, a Vietnamese graduate engineer can earn US$2,000 a month while those who have finished high school and certain vocational training courses can make upward of $1,000, almost double the earnings of unskilled workers, Hai pointed out. Still, the effort is far from a success as “foreign skilled labor markets require much more than what Vietnam’s vocational training system can offer,” the deputy head said.

The Japanese market, for example, pays high salaries and charges labor export companies low fees to send workers to Japan but Vietnamese workers often fail the recruitment tests.

“It’ll take time - we don’t know how long - to improve the quality of Vietnam’s vocational training,” Hai said.

Le Thanh Nam applied to a labor export company recently, wishing to work in Japan, but he couldn’t pass the tests. “I’ve never been taught those things.”

Nam graduated from Ho Chi Minh City University of Polytechnic last year as a “rather good” student, majoring in mechanics.

He is pinning his hopes on working for a Japanese company in Vietnam to gain more experience.

Sovilaco, a big name among labor exporters from Vietnam, also found Japan a tough market.

“Vietnam’s labor supply falls short of Japan’s demand as our vocational training is not up to date with modern technology skills,” said Le Van Ha, head of Sovilaco’s professional labor export department.

The company has sent 1,400 workers overseas in the first eight months this year, only 10 percent to Japan.

Meanwhile, Singapore is recruiting semi-conductor technicians but Vietnam has no suitable candidates for this job.

Sovilaco has launched a training course and expects to send 120 technicians in the field to Singapore next year.

High-level language is another skill that many Vietnamese workers graduating from universities rarely possess.

That explains why Vietnam’s main export markets this year don’t include Singapore, one of the importers that offer high salaries but also pays the most attention to workers’ language competence.

The Overseas Manpower Service Company (SULECO) under HCMC Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs planned to send 200 workers to Singapore this year but to date only 50 candidates passed the language skill interviews.

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