Companies hit by shortage of skillful Chinese workers due to virus

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has disrupted several companies in Vietnam as thousands of Chinese workers have been unable to return to work after Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday.

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One of the 16 Chinese workers under quarantine at JY Ha Nam Co Ltd in the northern province of Ha Nam. — VNA/VNS Photo Anh Tuan

JY isan apparel manufacturer located in an industrial park in Ly Nhan District, Ha Nam Province. It employs a total of 41 foreigners, among whom 31 were Chinese citizens, said the company's manager Park Yung-keun.

Park told Nong thon Ngay nay (Countryside Today) newspaper that all the Chinese workers returned to China for the most important holiday of the Lunar New Year, and only 16 had so far managed to return.

Those employees, however, were yet to start working but had to take health checks and constant tests to determine if they were infected with the deadly COVID-19 virus, Park said.

“The Chinese workers are being put in quarantine in separate rooms at the (company’s) dormitory for 14 days since the day they arrived in Hanoi,” he said.

Ha Nam Department of Labours, Invalids and Social Affairs director Nguyen Manh Tien said the province was one of 24 localities that host foreign employees in Vietnam. There were no Chinese companies in the province, he said, though up to 540 Chinese were registered to work in companies and factories in the area.

The COVID-19 virus – the official name given to the novel coronavirus by the World Health Organization on February 11 – had killed 1,115 people and infected 45,171, mostly in mainland China, as of February 12 afternoon.

Believed to originate in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the virus rapidly spreads to 28 countries and territories since late January, including Vietnam. The country on February 11 confirmed its 15th infection in a three-month-old baby.

Vietnam decided to suspend all flights to and from mainland China in response to the outbreak, leaving many Chinese employees unable to return to Vietnam after returned home for the holiday.

A report by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) shows there are about 91,500 Chinese workers with work permits in Vietnam. Forty per cent of them, however, are yet to return to Vietnam.

Lack of specialists

Labour expert Nguyen Thi Lan Huong warned that the outbreak was putting pressure on businesses when most Chinese employees in Vietnam were specialists or highly skilled workers.

“Most Chinese employees who returned to China during the outbreak will not come back to Vietnam soon, or were asked to refrain from going to work, or were put under quarantine once they arrived in Vietnam,” Huong said.

“This will cause difficulties for companies which employ Chinese workers. A shortage of specialists and highly skilled workers can also be expected if the outbreak prolongs.”

Deputy labour minister Le Van Thanh said the ministry sent a precautionary notice to companies which employ foreigners, especially Chinese workers, to prepare for a lack of skilled labour.

“Those companies should proactively give technical training to senior workers to prepare for the shortage if the outbreak lasts longer,” he said.

Labour exports suspended

Labour export companies were also facing hardships with Vietnam’s biggest labour markets of Japan, the Republic of Korea, or Taiwan all reporting cases of the COVID-19 virus.

LOD labour export company deputy general director Le Nhat Tan said the outbreak was hitting the industry hard.

“If the outbreak continues longer, many of our contracts to send workers overseas will be delayed, or even face the risk of termination if the companies receiving the workers are located in disease clusters,” he said.

The overseas labour management department deputy director Nguyen Gia Liem said that both MoLISA and the department sent documents to labour export firms asking them to not send workers abroad during the outbreak.

The companies must also train workers on disease prevention measures and strictly follow the medical requirements of Vietnamese authorities and their destination countries.

VNS