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Vietnamese workers turn to TikTok, Facebook for income amid lay-off wave

Vietnamese workers turn to TikTok, Facebook for income amid lay-off wave

Sunday, August 27, 2023, 17:40 GMT+7
Vietnamese workers turn to TikTok, Facebook for income amid lay-off wave
The dinners with many laughs in Huynh Ngoc Banh’s family have attracted many viewers and helped him earn money from a fish sauce business in Vietnam. Photo: An Vi / Tuoi Tre

Faced with many challenges in recent months due to waves of lay-offs and reduced working time, many workers in Vietnam are exploring opportunities to create content on social media featuring their own life stories for a possible new income.

With video clips, amateur content creators hope to inspire others by telling the stories of their daily lives in their own way.

They have to learn how to create a video clip from scratch.

Some of them have attracted numerous followers and dream of building their own channel as another source of income.

Stories from workers’ lives

“Hi everyone, my name is Trang, and I am a factory worker. What are you going to eat this afternoon? I am going to have a dinner of sour soup,” Trang greets her viewers at the beginning of a video when she comes home and starts preparing dinner.

While Trang cooks, her older sister Thu Hien helps her record the video, which shows the entire process of preparing dinner in a working-class family.

On her way home from the workshop, Tran Thi Thu Trang, 23, from Cang Long District in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh, stops at a market at 4:00 pm to buy fish.

It is a normal day for the two young women: they go to work, record the meal preparation, edit the video, before posting it online every few days.

“At one time, one of our video clips was viewed more than 1.5 million times. It showed how to prepare corn with meat and how we manage on a monthly salary of VND5 million [US$209],” Trang said.

On the TikTok account of 'Hien Trang TV,' the two young women share many video clips, each about two minutes long, on various topics such as workers’ lives, meals, and exchanging love between family members. These videos have accumulated tens of thousands of views thanks to the witty storytelling and simple and memorable images.

Among the videos, viewers can see the two women preparing popular and delicious dishes such as 'cá bống kho tiêu' (braised goby with pepper), 'canh cua đồng' (field crab soup), and 'mắm cá lóc chưng' (fermented snakehead fish).

Sometimes they make a series of videos called 'Let’s see what we can buy with VND50,000 [$2.1].' One of them is a clip showing how they selected small shrimp to make soup with papaya.

“Even though we have so much to do, we still try to make a good meal for ourselves. On weekends, we return to our families and cook a good meal for our parents,” Trang says.

In addition to videos of meal preparation, there are also video clips of rural landscapes with some amusing introductions from the young women.

Phuong Nhi, 25, from the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, has more than 52,000 followers and has become known for her clips of the lives of female workers.

“I saw videos of others coming home from work, going to the market, and preparing meals, which interested me so much that I tried it too. I learned how to edit videos and recorded my first clip a few months later,” Phuong Nhi recalls.

The young tenant from Nhon Trach District in Dong Nai Province also enjoys making snacks such as ice cream and gooseberry jam. “I make it myself, not because it saves me money, because the cost of materials is more expensive than buying ice cream from the market. But they are healthier and more suitable for my taste," Nhi adds.

Learning how to make videos seriously

To get better at making videos, many workers who want to become TikTokers and Facebookers actively learn how to create professional content. Some of them even take courses that instruct how to set up an online channel to sell goods at a cost of at least VND300,000 ($12.6).

Linh Hue, who lives in Soc Trang Province in the Mekong Delta, both sells goods online and teaches viewers to live-stream properly until almost 10:00 pm. 

In her opinion, online sellers can live-stream as much as they want if they are good at selling lots of goods, but it would be fine if they only do so for 90 minutes. Linh Hue encourages her viewers to keep live-streaming until they are popular on social media.

There are more and more videos of blue-collar workers popping up on TikTok or Facebook that have a large number of followers. In addition to content that serves to amuse or show covers of popular songs, the videos that depict their everyday life have recently attracted the attention of many viewers.

These videos attract viewers with their simplicity and familiarity. Phuong Nhi tells how she creates her videos, “I record with my smartphone and film myself. Editing does not take that much time, but adding music takes a while. I often mix the music with themes like family, parents, or old songs familiar to generations born in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Phuong Nhi works from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am. When she comes home from physical work in the factory, she often cooks, takes a shower, and then sleeps. She makes a new video every few days.

She says one of her video clips has already been viewed more than 2.8 million times since it was released in May.

“After the video was released for a few days, one of the viewers shared it in a work group. Until about 5:00 pm that day, I was surprised to see a huge number of followers on the TikTok account,” she recounts.

Also, no special effects were used in the clips on the Hien Trang TV account, even the voice was not edited. The owner of the account appears in each video with a cheerful and funny smile in a pink worker uniform.

The life of Nguyen Duc Hoa, who is from the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap but lives in Thuan An City under Binh Duong Province, where a lot of industrial parks are located, has changed in recent months. Instead of trying to buy as much cheap and delicious food as possible, he prepares meals carefully and thoroughly, for now he not only cooks himself but also records clips to broadcast to his more than 16,000 followers on TikTok.

Producing shoes is not an easy job, but Duc Hoa keeps up his usual frequency in creating new clips. When he arrives at his rented room, he picks up the smartphone to record the preparation of his dinner despite being tired.

This allows viewers to follow the entire process: it starts with the scene where the 33-year-old man comes home with meat and a bag of vegetables, then he prepares the greens and meat for cooking. All daily activities have been recorded with the old cellphone that Hoa has been using for more than four years.

He started to make video clips like this during the COVID-19 pandemic when he was trapped in Binh Duong because of lockdowns. The videos he made to describe his daily life have gained a growing number of followers in recent months, which has inspired him a lot.

Although the images in these amateur videos are still blurry and the audio is not really vivid, Duc Hoa has been telling really truthful stories at the dinner table. Sometimes among them is a touching story from the workers’ lives.

“I am a factory worker who only attended 9th grade, so I cannot write interesting scripts or arrange recordings for the videos. I just relayed what I experienced in my life, sometimes my daily activities. For a worker who lives and works far away from his hometown, it is really lucky that I can tell my stories and that people listen to me,” Duc Hoa told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

Thu Trang prepares dinner while making the video she will post on TikTok. Photo provided

Tran Thi Thu Trang prepares dinner while making a video she will post on TikTok. Photo: Supplied

Exploring a new path

When Huynh Ngoc Banh, who lives in Binh Duong Province, learned to make videos two years ago, he said he wanted to share his thoughts as a blue-collar worker who was struggling with a difficult and sometimes hopeless life at the time. Banh and his wife, who have a 7-year-old son, are still trying to make ends meet with their work besides sewing machines and shoes.

“In the past few months, we have had our working hours refuced and have run into financial difficulties. I would like to find another way to earn a living, but as a worker who does not have suitable skills and knowledge, I do not know what I can do now,” Banh shares.

When some of his clips were well received on Facebook, Ngoc Banh saw it as an opportunity. He started looking at how other content creators made their videos and began learning how to record and create videos as well as audio files.

Ngoc Banh intends to use social media platforms as another way to improve his life. In their cramped room, the couple usually cooks dinner despite a long, tiring day at work, which over time has been made available to a much larger online audience.

“At least that is one of the new solutions I can try during this difficult time. I know it is a real challenge, but I still want to try. If it does not work out, I will consider it as a way to preserve the memory of my family," the man says.

Duc Hoa took advantage of his rare break to make a video to share with the online community, talking about the life of workers. Photo provided

Nguyen Duc Hoa takes advantage of his rare break to make a video to share with the online community about workers' life. Photo: Supplied

Finding ways to make money with personal channels

After amassing a large number of followers, some TikTokers are thinking of making money from their personal channels.

Ngoc Banh says that a company producing fish sauce contacted him and asked him to promote their products on his channel after seeing them in his video.

Although the first amount of money he received was just shy of VND1 million ($42), he felt inspired and encouraged to invest more time and money in the videos. Thanks to his efforts and dedication, the video clips have been paid several million Vietnamese dong to date. Thu Trang, whose channel is Hien Trang TV, also says that she no longer makes her videos just for fun but tries to make them as good as she can.  “After the videos got so much attention, some people suggested we sell goods on the TikTok platform and they would support us. If we had time, we would consider it,” Thu Trang said.

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Yen Trinh - Kim Thoa / Tuoi Tre News

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