Many Vietnamese workers have found it hard to make ends meet as they have few chances to work overtime to earn more money due to their companies’ decline in orders.
In many localities, roads around industrial parks have become crowded after 5:00 pm as workers return to their homes after work. Working overtime has been rare among workers.
At a boarding house with more than 25 rooms for rent near the Khac Niem Industrial Park in northern Bac Ninh Province, workers often complete their work and return to their rented rooms early, which is contrary to the situation in the pre-COVID-19 pandemic period.
Hanh Phuc, the owner of the boarding house, said that companies were lacking in new orders, so they did not ask their workers to work overtime.
Many workers have even quit their jobs and returned to their hometowns.
As a result, many rooms at her boarding house have been left vacant, Phuc shared.
Vi Kieu Oanh, a 19-year-old resident in Nghe An Province in north-central Vietnam, and Luc Thi Phuong, 21, from northern Lao Cai Province, share a room at the boarding house as they are working for a company.
They work eight hours per day and do not work overtime the whole week.
“After the pandemic was kept at bay, my work became unstable. Without working overtime, my salary is only around VND5 million [US$206] per month. I cannot save a penny,” Phuong said.
Oanh added “My salary is barely enough to cover my expenses. Earlier, I had to ask for an advance on my salary to cover my needs, and sometimes I did not have enough money to buy instant noodles. I do not think I can be in such a situation”.
The two workers share the room rental of about VND1.5 million ($61.8) per month, with water and power costs included.
They have not dared to visit their families.
“We hope [our company’s] orders will increase so that we can work overtime to earn additional incomes during this tough time,” Oanh said.
Pham Tuan Anh, a 28-year-old worker of a South Korean-invested company located in Bac Ninh Province as well, seems luckier.
He works from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and works overtime until 7:00 pm everyday as his company has secured orders.
Tuan Anh works as a phone body housing tester with a basic salary of more than VND5 million ($206). His total income is VND8-9 million ($330-371) with overtime pay and allowances included.
He can save VND3 million ($123.7) per month after paying for a rented room, meals, and other costs.
Owning a home a pipe dream
Leaving their hometowns for Ho Chi Minh City for 10 to 20 years, most workers can earn enough money to nurture their children only. Buying a house, even a social house, is beyond their ability.
Nguyen Cam Thi, a 42-year-old worker in the Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, said her company has offered no overtime work this year.
However, Thi said she was still lucky as many other workers had been laid off.
Working as a worker for 20 years, her income was nearly VND10 million ($412.3) per month in previous years. The figure has fallen to only VND7-8 million ($288.6-330) now.
School fees for her two children are nearly VND7 million ($288.6), and boarding house, water, and power costs require more than VND2 million ($82.5) a month.
In a rented room measuring some 12 square meters, Thi said “it’s lucky as the boarding house owner does not raise the room rental. I do not dare to think of purchasing a house, which requires billions of Vietnam dongs. How can a worker earn such a giant amount?” (VND1 billion = $41,261).
Huynh Thi Le Trinh, a 41-year-old resident in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, faces the same fate.
Her salary was more than VND6 million ($247.4) this month. She and her husband are workers of the same company and they have just resumed their work after one week off.
“Earlier this year, my monthly salary was VND8-9 million [$330-371] as I could work overtime. This month, we were furloughed for one week due to [our company’s] falling orders. Purchasing a house is impossible with our salaries,” Trinh said.