The country has required a legal labour contract between the employers and their domestic workers since 2014.
Up to 90 percent of domestic helpers in Vietnam report not having a legal contract with the families they worked for. No labour contract also means no social insurance, while their extra allowances or bonuses are dependent on the employers’ kindness only.
Hoang Thi Suu’s hometown is in Phu Tho province, about 80 kilometres to the northwest of Hanoi. She struggled to make a living and decided to leave for Hanoi for a job. Suu found a job as a domestic worker for a family in Hai Ba Trung district.
“My monthly salary is 5 million VND (220 USD). It helps to cover my children’s study costs,” Suu said.
Suu did not have a legal labour contract with her family employer. Her salary and bonus for Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday were set in a verbal agreement prior to or during her working time at the house. The middle-aged woman had neither health nor social insurances.
The rising living standard of middle-class families in big cities has led to a rocketing in demand for domestic helpers over the last decade, which is unlikely to slow down in the near future. The great demand has drawn an influx of women from their rural hometowns to cities like HCM City and Hanoi seeking an in-house job instead of hard labour in the fields.
According to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Vietnam is projected to have about 350,000 people employed as domestic workers by 2020.
Up to 75 percent of migrant female workers choose domestic worker as their job.
Their daily work could range from taking care of the elderly and children in the family to cleaning and cooking. They may live with their employers or work on an hourly basis.
Nguyen Thi Mai is a veteran domestic worker in Hanoi. It has been seven years since the middle-aged woman left her rural hometown of Thanh Chuong in the north-central province of Nghe An. Not once during her time in Hanoi, Mai said, did she and her employer say a word about a labour contract. Every deal was verbal, she added.
The non-governmental organisation Research Centre for Gender, Family and Community Director Ngo Thi Ngoc Anh said that only three per cent of domestic helpers have social insurance. Most of them did not join the insurance during their time as domestic helpers but while they were working at their previous jobs.
The reason for the lack of labour contracts among domestic workers was not hard to figure out, Anh said.
A majority of domestic workers have low levels of education, she said, and few of them are familiar with the laws and regulations regarding labour rights.
A 2014 governmental decree states that the domestic workers and their employers must establish a labour contract including agreements on salary, bonus or overtime payment, among other issues.
Tong Thi Minh, Director of the Department of Labour Relations and Wages under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said that the labour contract matter was currently deemed a nuisance by both sides.
“Most of them think that it (domestic help) is a simple job and a labour contract will be unnecessary,” Minh said.
Regulations also require that young domestic workers aged from 15 to 18 must have a legal representative, or a guardian, to sign a contract with the employers. Its administrative procedure is thought to be complicated and so both employers and employees often dismiss it, Minh said.
Another key reason comes from the domestic workers themselves. They just do not want to spend their already meagre income on the insurances.
“If I join social insurance, my wage will be cut. My daily life is already hard enough and I need all the money I have,” Suu said.