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Will work-from-home continue in post-pandemic Việt Nam?



By Minh Hương

HÀ NỘI — For the four months of the strict social distancing, Nguyễn Bích Trâm learned how to oil paint. Like millions of other people, she is happy the situation now allows for work to return to the office, but she does admit she has gotten used to the ease of working from home. 

Working for a computer company in District 5, HCM City, Trâm told Việt Nam News: “Though the lockdown was terrible, I do feel the benefits of working from home. I can do all the work at home and still have time for other things, all while keeping myself safe in the pandemic.”

Trâm says that her boss is willing to let her continue working in a ‘hybrid’ way and has even arranged to help her upgrade her internet connection at home, as he wants to keep good employees like Trâm. In her own words: “Wherever I work, I will try my best.”

A mixture of online and offline, or hybrid, working is being applied in most big cities in Việt Nam. According to experts from PwC, the pandemic has provided organisations with the chance to define what the new future of work looks like. Working virtually is no longer seen as new and risky and most organisations use remote operations to some extent. COVID-19 has fast-tracked workforce acceptance and prompted a global shift towards hybrid working.

Aik Sern (Christopher) Lee, a senior manager at Workforce Transformation of PwC Consulting Việt Nam, said: “Before the pandemic, flexible work arrangements such as remote working was presented as a unique employee benefit of just a few organisations. After the relaxing of strict social distancing measures some employers might want to revert to the traditional nine-to-five environment, but this would be a wasted opportunity. It is time for organisations to rethink work, redefine the social contract with employees and explore new ways of working that can create value for employees and the organisations.”

While employees are getting used to the new working style, leaders are anxious about productivity and the ability to sustain innovation and corporate culture across multiple places.

In a report about how the hybrid working is rewriting the rule book, PwC Việt Nam has identified some strategies on how to make hybrid work successful with some key focus areas, in which future workplaces will combine both physical and non-physical elements so people, technology, and processes can integrate seamlessly to enable productive work.

At the same time, people’s well-being at work is also important. Working from home can cause loneliness, isolation and burnout, so employers need to proactively address the issue with practical steps.

PwC suggests that people in leadership positions who design workplace culture, policies and connectivity present different options to their employees. The firm said organisations must be clear on the rights and obligations of their employees, from workplace health and safety to impacts on remuneration and performance management, so that they can take the necessary steps to make hybrid working successful.

According to the firm, established leadership behaviours are increasingly outdated. Companies should adopt a leadership model that prioritises connectivity and team empowerment over control and centralised decision-making as a critical solution to the success of the organisation.

The firm said balancing what employees need and what employers can provide is a delicate act, adding that by creating a compelling employee experience irrespective of work location, organisations should make their people part of the journey and co-create solutions.

“Việt Nam undertook a national ‘work from home’ experiment during the four months of total lockdown. Work has fundamentally changed forever. As we look forward to the next phase of recovery, leaders’ focus is shifting from the question of ‘if’ they should enable remote work to ‘how’. In particular, how to ensure employee performance is uplifted, measured and managed across a hybrid workforce is a critical concern, ” Christopher added.

In late October, ManpowerGroup Việt Nam and the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) hosted a webinar called “Digital Transformation: International Experience in Employment Security & the Future of Skills for Vietnamese Workers”.

Lê Văn Thành, Deputy Minister of MOLISA, told the webinar: “While COVID-19 vaccinations are deployed globally, as well as in Việt Nam, the domestic labour market is expected to recover in 2022. The pandemic, which is forecasted to be very unpredictable, will require the labour and employment sector to be more prepared, to change the way it operates in the direction of modernity and digitisation to adapt to the ‘new normal’.”

In tandem with the country’s efforts towards digital transformation, a representative from the Department of Employment shared a project to apply information technology to help connect local workforces with suitable jobs.

According to ManpowerGroup, a workforce solutions company, digital transformation is among today’s biggest workforce trends. The Skills Revolution Reboot 2021 research by ManpowerGroup revealed that 38 per cent of companies globally are speeding up their digitisation and automation; Việt Nam is catching up with the trend.

According to the recent survey, up to 94 per cent of FDI businesses in Việt Nam have a clear intention to enhance the application of new technologies in manufacturing activities in the coming three years.

Simon Matthews, Regional Manager of ManpowerGroup Việt Nam, Thailand & Middle East, told Việt Nam News: “Under the impact of the industrial revolution 4.0 and the pandemic, employers today take a more important role than ever in providing sustainable employment, and the HR department should consider adopting the people-first approach in their business strategy.”

As new work models account for 37 per cent of the top priorities for attracting employees, Jonas Prising, CEO and Chairman of ManpowerGroup, said: “Now is the time to reshape a better, brighter future for workers – one that is more skilled, more diverse, and better orientated than we could ever have imagined.”

At the same time, Phạm Hồng Quân, HR Head of Piaggio Asia Pacific, shared that Piaggio is offering its employees a hybrid work-set up and is also providing mental health support during the pandemic. 

While hybrid work is increasing during the pandemic, on November 17, deputy head of the Central Economic Commission Đỗ Ngọc An, told a workshop on labour transformation and digital human resource development that digitalising the human resource industry is a chance to boost the economy.

Việt Nam had 56.2 million labourers last year and the local digital economy is reported to see a year-on-year growth rate of 31 per cent in 2021, reaching US$21 billion, according to the e-Conomy SEA 2021 Report published by Temasek, Google and management consulting firm Bain & Company earlier this month.

The report said the Vietnamese internet economy could reach US$220 billion in Gross Merchandise Volume by 2030, ranking second after Indonesia. —




Exporters told to strictly comply with EU regulations to avoid losses



The European Union has a large demand for imported agricultural products and, thanks to the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), Vietnamese businesses have a unique opportunity to take advantage of this.

 However, local businesses need to strictly comply with European regulations to avoid losses when exporting to the region.

Exporters told to strictly comply with EU regulations to avoid losses
The EU applies strict requirements and regulations on imported food products. — VNA/VNS Photo Vu Sinh 

For food products, the EU has strict requirements and regulations on product quality and the maximum residue level (MRL) of pesticides.

Trade counsellor Tran Ngoc Quan, head of the Vietnam Trade Office in Belgium and EU, said that most regulations across the bloc are similar when it comes to agricultural and food products.

Germany, Austria, the UK, Netherlands and Belgium do have stricter and higher MRL levels than the standard EU regulations, though these vary with different active ingredients, fresh produce and processed products.

Dang Phuc Nguyen, General Secretary of the Vietnam Fruit and Vegetable Association, said that while Vietnamese fruits and vegetables are more competitive than those from countries without a European trade agreement, exporters must focus on improving MRL levels.

Nguyen said: “If enterprises exporting to the EU do not comply with the regulations, they face the risk of increased levels of inspections, supervision and perhaps even being banned from exporting to these markets in the future.

“The EU applies these regulations very strictly. Enterprises that want to export to the EU must obtain certificates and production levels according to GlobalGAP.”

Nguyen added that violators run the risk of incurring heavy losses if they are caught.

According to the new EU regulation No 2021/1900, effective from November 23, the frequency of pesticide testing on Vietnamese herbs and fruits will increase. Of this, 50 per cent of testing will be applied to coriander, basil, mint, parsley, beans corn and pepper and 10 per cent will be applied to dragon fruit.

Nguyen said that as vegetable products in Vietnam often have pesticides, some samples and consignments will be tested for residue. The EU has also increased the frequency of testing, adding that the more enterprises violate the regulations, the more frequent inspections will be. 

He said bans on export to the EU could be applied to violators.

According to a representative of the Vietnam Pepper Association (VPA), the EU’s increase in testing will raise difficulties in exporting to the EU and will invite increased competition from other countries.

“In order to avoid violations, businesses must do better at testing products when exporting, as well as strengthening production links to create a clean and safe raw material area,” said a representative of VPA.

The EU also conducts post-inspections away from ports, so even though goods are being consumed or sold at supermarkets or shops, if they are not of good quality they can still be recalled, said Nguyen.

Using the example of a Vietnamese pepper export enterprise that was refused by Spain when its product was tested at the border gate recently, Nguyen said that if the violation was discovered when the product was already on shelves it would cause larger financial damage to the  Vietnamese exporter. 

Nguyen Minh Lien, General Director of Vinamex Company which purchases Vietnamese goods for export to the EU market, shared that some Vietnamese enterprises do not pay due attention to food safety issues. Lien added that due to the post-inspection of the EU market, some have had to pay fines and incur additional costs due to poor quality products.

In addition, Lien said some basic errors like incorrect packaging leads to products being returned or sold cheaper to other markets.

Lien noted when exporting goods to the EU, Vietnamese businesses must work closely with importers on product quality, packaging and contract inspection to avoid loss and damage.

She said supermarkets in the EU do not directly import goods from Vietnam, so local enterprises should cooperate with importers to arrange products at the warehouse before entering the retail market there.

She also suggested Vietnamese enterprises cooperate to diversify products, ensure sufficient output and take advantage of shared containers when exporting.

Considering EU customers are increasingly interested in buying products from businesses that contribute to community development and the environment, Nguyen said: “Sustainable development should be a long-term direction for export businesses in Vietnam.”

At the same time, even enterprises and manufacturers that follow the GlobalGAP requirements must pay attention to the plant protection ingredients that the EU bans or restricts, as some may be different from the GlobalGAP.

Source: Vietnam News


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Moody’s upgrades VPBank’s rating to Ba3



VPBank is one of the leading banks in Việt Nam. — Photo courtesy of the bank

HÀ NỘI — Global credit rating firm Moody’s Investors Services has upgraded Việt Nam Prosperity Bank (VPBank)’s foreign currency deposits from B1 to Ba3 which is equal to the country’s rating with positive outlook.

Moody’s BCA ratings reflect the independent intrinsic strength of the issuer. This credit rating is assessed based on the macro-environment, financial profile and qualitative assessment factors. In addition to upgrading the BCA rating, Moody’s also upgraded VPBank’s long-term local and foreign currency deposit ratings, rising to Ba3.

VPBank’s credit rating was announced after the bank completed the sale of a 49 per cent stake at its VPBank Finance Company Limited (FE Credit) to SMBC Consumer Finance Co Ltd (SMBCCF), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group, Inc (SMBC Group) at the end of October. Moody’s assessed that the capital sale brought about a significant improvement in the bank’s credit profile. Notably, according to Moody’s methodology, the bank’s capital adequacy ratio (CAR) increased from 11.4 per cent at the end of September 2021 to 13.5 per cent at the end of October 2021.

In addition to the improved capital base, the bank’s outstanding business results in recent months, despite the negative impact of COVID-19 on the economy, were also highly appreciated by Moody’s. The business results in the third quarter of the year showed that VPBank’s consolidated before-tax profit reached more than VNĐ11.7 trillion (US$513 million), up 24.9 per cent over the same period last year. The parent bank’s pre-tax profit alone reached VNĐ10.8 trillion, representing 75.2 per cent year-on-year increase. The bank’s total consolidated operating income reached VNĐ33.2 trillion, increasing 17.3 per cent over the corresponding period last year. Its consolidated return on assets (ROA) and return on equity (ROE) indices continued to be among the top of the market, reaching 2.8 per cent and 21.6 per cent respectively.

Moody’s believed that VPBank’s capital capacity will continue to be stable, as the bank has clearly demonstrated its plan to use capital obtained from the FE Credit deal to promote growth and seek new business investment opportunities. In addition, the assets scale will be further expanded thanks to the profit growth from business activities.

“VPBank’s asset quality and profitability will remain stable over the next 12-18 months,” Moody’s said in the announcement, emphasising the belief that VPBank’s asset quality will be well under control as Việt Nam’s economy recovers and vaccination rates increase.

The upgraded ratings from a prestigious international credit rating agency like Moody’s in the context that Việt Nam’s economy has suffered heavy impacts from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, has demonstrated confidence of international organisations in VPBank’s capital base and development plan this year and in the future. This also contributes to strengthening VPBank’s position, while further enhancing its ability to mobilise capital from reputable financial institutions. —


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Rural groceries change business strategy as they compete with foreign supermarkets



Thanh Ngoc, the owner of a grocery store, was seen comparing the prices of thousands of products with a smartphone.

Rural groceries change business strategy as they compete with foreign supermarkets

Just after a touch on the screen, a truck carrying goods worth tens of millions of dong arrived after some minutes.

Ngoc has been running a grocery in Bien Hoa City of Dong Nai province for many years. Previously, she met wholesalers every weekend to buy goods but now stays at home and places orders. All the products she needs, from toothpaste to shampoo to drinks, are delivered to the door.

“Now I can manage a shopping list with hundreds of items worth tens of millions of dong. I can analyze the purchases of local people in different periods to determine how many products I need for retail and adjust business plans,” she said.

The other two grocery stores in the same area have also been digitized. The digitization allows them to get hundreds of products from suppliers in one order within a day.

The tendency of going online is growing throughout the country. Traditional grocery stores are becoming one of the two B’s in B2B (Business to Business) in the distribution chain.

Nguyen Minh Hanh from Telio Vietnam, an e-commerce platform with retail agents in 26 cities and provinces, said the online trend will continue. The flow of people leaving large cities for hometowns after the pandemic is expected to increase goods consumption in rural areas and provinces with smaller populations.

Vo Duy Phu from VinShop said the strong development of technological platforms plus the pandemic have accelerated digitization in the retail industry.

For many of the 80,000 grocery owners, this is the first time they are using smartphones to make transactions, thus creating a revolution in the retail industry.

Online groceries are becoming common in every neighborhood as they benefit both sellers and buyers.

A representative from VinShop said with the support of technology, goods can circulate faster from manufacturers to consumers, and the problems of traditional retail can be settled with digital technology.

“One-touch purchases can help restrict contact during the pandemic. You can stay at home and compare the prices of thousands of products. Goods are delivered door to door. These are the values that digitization brings,” Phu said.

A Nielsen’s report showed that Vietnam has more than 1.4 million grocery stores and 9,000 traditional markets. 

Tran Chung


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