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The dilemma of migrant garment workers



Many female garment workers are among the hardest-hit by Covid-19 – PHOTO: TRAN NGOC LINH

In HCMC and Vietnam, Covid-19 has shut down factories and deprived plenty of garment workers of their jobs. In this industry, which is among the sectors creating the biggest numbers of job opportunities here, a multitude of workers are living below the poverty line and see no light at the end of the tunnel. 

Dr. Do Quynh Chi from the Research Center for Employment Relations, was speaking at a seminar on the impact of Covid-19 upon the innovation process of employment relations in Vietnam held in HCMC in early September.

A woman herself, Chi was especially sympathetic for Vietnamese migrant female workers in the textile-garment industry, who she said are hardest-hit by the lingering pandemic. A multitude of these female workers have lost their jobs as orders placed to their factories are cancelled, forcing them to live “under the minimum level.”

“Here, being under the minimum level means… starvation,” said Dr. Chi. “I’ve met those workers who ate one meal a day whose rice was from rice donation and supper was from a soup packet of an instant noodle package.”

Chi told the participants in the seminar the story of Le Thi Hoa, 48, a garment worker in Thanh Hoa City in Thanh Hoa Province, some 1,460 kilometers north of HCMC.

Not long ago, Hoa received a phone call from her second son who is a student of a university in Hanoi. The boy called her mom to ask her to send him money so that he could pay for his school fees and other expenses. But Hoa was in a dilemma. Not long prior to that moment, Hoa had given all her savings to her son on his way to Hanoi to conduct his enrolment to the university. She had also promised to send him more when she received her monthly salary at the end of the month. However, as the new school year had started, and he had to spend more on educational expenses. Hoa told herself that even when she got her pay, which was VND4 million, she was still short of VND1 million for her child. Hoa made a call to her elder son who is working in HCMC to seek help.

Five years ago, Hoa started her work at a footwear factory which was nearly 20 kilometers from her house in Thanh Hoa City. The new job ended her time of being a farmhand after her tailor shop had been closed because it could not compete with cheap ready-made clothes. Hoa was quite aware that long working hours in a garment factory would be tough for a woman her age, she was willing to do it to earn money to help her child who studied at a university and another son who suffered from a kidney disease.

Her husband, a self-employed mason, could receive daily wages. It was not much, just enough for him to pay for the increasing living expenses in Thanh Hoa City’s outlying area. She told herself that if she did overtime jobs, she could earn more to help her kids.

However, things have been getting worse and worse for Hoa since early this year. Plagued by the Covid-19 pandemic, the factory where she was working for was sent into a tailspin because of cancelled orders. Late March to early April, the factory had to fire part of its work force. Hoa retained her job as she is a skilled worker. Hoa had worked in Saigon for several years before she was back to her birthplace to open her own tailor shop. However, jobs were slashed and her wage was cut to VND2 million, less than a half of last year.

Of course, the reduced salary was not enough for Hoa’s sons to pay for accommodation rental, school fees and medicine. Fortunately, her factory’s orders began to come back, meaning Hoa had more jobs to do. However, she could receive VND4 million at most. Her husband was not better, either, because few people needed a mason in the pandemic. The couple’s meals were only boiled vegetables from their small garden and tofu.

Chi said nevertheless, Hoa was still luckly as she could keep their job. She has just conducted two research projects, she told the participants. The first was a survey on the adjustment process of 58 firms impacted by Covid-19 carried out in late April to early May. The other, in late June, was about the connection in footwear, textiles and garments and electronics sectors, surveying 179 companies across cities and provinces.

During the interviews Chi conducted with nearly 300 workers, she met pitiful workers. A woman whose husband had passed away was working at a garment factory to take care of her old mom and two kids. The female worker got fired because of Covid-19 and had to sell lottery tickets to make ends meet. Although the family was extremely frugal, she had to spent what she had paying for her first daughter’s university fees. Their meals were mostly from free rice and instant noodle from benefactors. Many female workers accepted being paid social insurance only once although they would lose their pension.

Most of migrant workers from the provinces, according to Chi, who have lost their job or whose salary was cut are not able to return to their birthplaces simply because they could not earn a livelihood there. Hopeless to find a new job, they have become housekeepers or drivers for ride-hailing services.

Meanwhile, Do Ta Khanh and Dang Thai Binh at the Institute for European Studies from mid-May to early June undertook a survey of 1,200 employees in Trang Bang Industrial Park (Tay Ninh Province), Amata Industrial Park (Dong Nai Province) and Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone (HCMC). The study shows that their income has been reduced significantly, falling from VND70-80 million per year to VND60-70 million.

Furthermore, garment workers saw their income cut deeper than their counterparts in the electronics sector. As a result, the number of garment workers whose salary is under VND50 million per year spiked 8.37% compared to that before the pandemic. In particular, the earnings of female workers are lower than those of male ones. Similarly, earnings of those without qualifications or completing secondary school only are slower than workers having a higher level of education. 

Although many enterprises in the leather and textile and garment industries are simply subcontractors, they have to buy materials to fulfill orders. Their situation is even worse now. These enterprises incurred heavier losses when orders were cancelled. Their only option was cutting labor costs, which are the largest share of their operating expenses. Up to 71% of textile and garment firms and 64% of leather firms among the surveyed enterprises said they had to resort to this option.




TTC Sugar to issue $30 million of unsecured bonds



TTC Sugar will sell VNĐ700 billion (US$ 3 million) of unsecured bonds to the public next quarter. — Photo courtesy of the firm

HÀ NÔI — TTC Sugar has announced it will offer VNĐ700 billion (US$30 million) worth of unsecured bonds up for public auction.

The firm said the interest rate of the bonds in the first year would be 10 per cent in the first four quarters then a floating interest rate after that.

The firm expects to release the bonds in the first quarter next year with the minimum order for individual investors VNĐ20 billion and institutional investors VNĐ250 billion.

It said the non-convertible bonds were not guaranteed by assets in the maximum term of three years and were issued to pay for sugar purchase contracts in the first quarter of 2021

Sugar purchase contracts included those with Thành Thành Công Gia Lai company worth VNĐ288.4 billion, Biên Hòa – Ninh Hòa Sugar Company worth VNĐ205.8 billion and Biên Hòa Đồng Nai TTC Sugar Company worth VNĐ205.8 billion.

As of September 30, TTC Sugar had total capital of more than VNĐ18.4 trillion, total financial debt of VNĐ8.6 trillion, in which bond loans reached nearly VNĐ1.3 trillion. In addition, the firm has nearly VNĐ153 billion of convertible bonds.

The shares of TTC Sugar with the sticker SBT gained 2.5 per cent to reach VNDD18,500 on the HCM City Stock Exchange (HoSE) yesterday —


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VN-Index back in the green after single red session



VN-Index back in the green after single red session

An investor looks at stock prices on a screen at a brokerage in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.

The VN-Index shrugged off a single-session loss, gaining 0.58 percent to close at 1,008.87 points Tuesday, with gains driven by large cap stocks

The Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HoSE), on which the VN-Index is based, saw a fairly balanced session with 221 stocks gaining and 199 losing. Out of these, 15 stocks hit their ceiling prices, the highest they could go in a trading session.

Total trading volume rose marginally over the previous session, to VND11.68 trillion ($504.2 million), of which half went towards the VN30, a basket of the market’s largest capped stocks.

The VN30-Index for this basket surged 1.08 percent, significantly outperforming the general market, with 18 gaining tickers and seven losing.

Topping gains were stocks in the private banking sector. STB of Sacombank soared 5.5 percent, VPB of VPBank 4.1 percent, TCB of Techcombank 1.7 perent, HDB of HDBank 1.4 percent, while EIB of Eximbank shed 0.3 percent.

Results in the public banking sector, however, were mixed. MBB of mid-sized Military Bank rose 2.5 percent, while of Vietnam’s three biggest lenders by assets, CTG of VietinBank was up 1.2 percent, BID of BIDV kept its opening price, while VCB of Vietcombank was the worst performer on the VN30, down 1.1 percent.

Other major gainers this session included TCH of truck dealer Hoang Huy Group, up 5.4 percent, SBT of agricultural exporter TTC-Sugar, up 2.5 percent, VNM of dairy giant Vinamilk, with 1.4 percent, and MSN of food conglomerate Masan Group, with 1.2 percent.

VIC of private conglomerate Vingroup, HoSE’s biggest cap, rose 1.1 percent, while VHM of its real estate arm Vinhomes was up 0.8 percent, and VRE of retail arm Vincom Retail added 0.2 percent.

In oil and gas, GAS of energy giant PetroVietnam Gas and POW of electricity generator PetroVietnam Power both kept their opening prices, while PLX of gasoline distributor Petrolimex shed 0.4 percent.

In the other direction, the biggest losers included ROS of construction firm FLC Faros, down 0.9 percent, KDH of real estate developer Khang Dien House, down 0.7 percent, and FPT of IT services firm FPT, with 0.4 percent.

The HNX-Index for the Hanoi Stock Exchange, home to mid- and small-caps, climbed 0.83 percent, but the UPCoM-Index for the Unlisted Companies Market jumped 1.36 percent.

Foreign investors continued to be net buyers to the tune of nearly VND420 billion on all three bourses, with buying pressure mostly on VNM of Vinamilk, and the FUEVFVND, an exchange-traded fund replicating the performance of stocks on the VN Diamond Index, a bag of 14 stocks, most of which are blue chips.


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Golden Brand Awards launched in HCMC



The launch ceremony of the HCMC Golden Brand Awards held at the headquarters of The Saigon Times Group on December 1 – PHOTO: THANH HOA

HCMC – The HCMC Department of Industry and Trade and The Saigon Times Group jointly launched the HCMC Golden Brand Awards this morning, December 1, aimed at honoring businesses in the city for their efforts in building their brands.

Addressing the launch ceremony, Bui Ta Hoang Vu, director of the HCMC Department of Industry and Trade, said HCMC is the country’s economic hub where many businesses have been established and running.

The HCMC Golden Brand Awards is expected to help raise the awareness of businesses operating in the city over the importance of building their brands and encourage them to accelerate innovation, creativity and development, thus helping them improve their competitive capacity in local and international markets.

The organizers will give priority to businesses active in four key industries and nine major services of the city. Selection will be based on their efficiency in building their brands, innovation, creativity, the quality and safety of their products and their corporate social responsibility.

“The success of an enterprise relies not only on the popularity of its brand but also on its efficient business model. The assessment over the health of a brand is no longer based mainly on communication or marketing strategies but on the brand platform, which is the foundation that helps businesses develop sustainably and maintain their competitiveness in the long term,” said Tran Minh Hung, editor-in-chief of The Saigon Times Group.

According to Nguyen Dong Phuong, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Industry and Trade, businesses eligible for the awards are those that comply with all the prevailing regulations on production and trade. They must be based in HCMC and must not commit copyright infringement or trade fraud. Their brand should have been developed for at least two years.

The jury will comprise experts in building brands. The award winners will be announced in January 2021.

Registrations can be submitted to The Saigon Times Group, 35 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward, District 1, HCMC, or the HCMC Department of Industry and Trade, 136 Hai Ba Trung Street, Ward 6, District 3, HCMC.

The registration form can be downloaded from


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