Joining the ASEAN Economic Community also brings both opportunities and challenges for Vietnam.
In this context, the human factor should be put in the core of social security work on ensuring poverty reduction, creating sustainable jobs and increasing labour productivity amidst international integration.
Promoting the community’s internal resources
Starting from 2016, the poverty line has changed in its approaches and poverty measurement from single to multi-dimensional ones, not only based on terms of income but also taking into account the level of shortage of people’s access to basic social services in healthcare, education, housing, water supply, sanitation and information.
Poverty reduction policies are also built towards reducing "gratuitous" support and increasing low-interest loans to motivate people to move out of poverty.
With the new content, new challenges posed during the 2016-2020 period highlight the need to change the approach to poverty reduction towards new thinking and new approaches.
Poverty reduction programmes need to become more substantial, and these programmes and projects should only be a "catalyst" to assist the community during their own development, rather than a targeted solution or service-providing channel as previously.
Therefore, one of the important issues that the National Target Programme on Sustainable Poverty Reduction between 2016 and 2020 set out is decentralisation to empower grassroots and communities to promote the spirit of self-reliance during poverty reduction at local level.
Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Trong Dam frankly pointed out that locales with a participatory community spirit witnessed how people’s live improved and the wealth gap narrowed.
This shows that promoting internal resources from a local community will be more effective for poverty reduction.
However, effective models and ways to develop internal forces of local community are still not well implemented for all.
The core problem for that has been pointed out by the National Assembly, the Government and relevant agencies and local authorities that is not putting the disadvantaged at the centre of these programmes.
There are many support policies to the poor that are not yet effective, even counterproductive. Somewhere, there are households with thoughts of staying in a poor state and localities that wish to be in the list of disadvantaged ones and do not want to escape poverty.
Meanwhile, the Government is doing a lot of work instead of people themselves. This also highlights the inadequacies of poverty reduction policies in the previous period.
Since 2016, the national target program for sustainable poverty reduction has made changes on how to help people out of poverty.
Accordingly, priorities will be focused on the poor, putting the poor and disadvantaged households and districts at the centre.
This approach will also make changes in administration and allocation of resources. Each village and hamlets of that locality would have to decide on how to do it.
Authorities at all levels will create favourable conditions and a legal framework on how to support the poor ,and disadvantaged villages will promote their strengths and strive to reduce poverty, as well as strengthening people and communities’ empowerment to promote initiatives that are consistent with local characteristics towards preserving and promoting cultural identity coupled with accountability.
This is the thorough motto of the national target programme in the future.
Therefore, mechanisms and policies in the coming period will witness remarkable changes, with increased preferential credit sources for poor and near-poor households, along with adjustment in objects for loans, loan size, interest rates and loan terms consistent with policies tied to agricultural, industrial, forestry and fisheries encouragement, science and technology transfer, and building and replicating community-based poverty reduction models.
In addition, prioritising resources for infrastructure and development and improving human resource quality in ethnic minority communities, disadvantaged districts and communes and those in border, coastal and islands areas is also another need.
Notably, it is necessary to focus on improving quality of education and vocational training in rural areas and ethnic minority communities, while maintaining support policies for disadvantaged students.
Prioritising an improvement in labour skills
Prioritising improving skills for the workforce must be considered an important task as Vietnam is facing the changing nature of work in the era of technology and at the time of low-skilled workers being replaced by automation.
This is seen an answer to the question of what Vietnam should do to meet the needs for changing technologies and labour skills, especially in the context where Vietnam has joined the ASEAN Economic Community, as well as other trade agreements.
Statistics show that, as of 2016, among a total of 54.36 million employees nationwide, just over 11.21 million trained workers have training qualifications/certificates, accounting for 20.6%.
It means that the country still has more than 43.15 million untrained workers, representing 79.4% of the total, while labour quality has a clear disparity between rural and urban areas.
In addition, its trained worker structure of is not in consistent with the actual needs and without a balance among training sectors. Notably, trained workers in technique-technological sector also account for a low proportion.
The country has a shortage of highly qualified technicians and skilled workers, especially for key industries such as mechanical engineering, electronics and electrical engineering, as well as highly qualified personnel working in sectors that have a strong impact on high and sustainable growth rate in the context of international economic integration, such as forecasting experts, international law consultants, senior experts on corporate governance, finance, banking, international trade, hi-tech, IT, automation, biotechnology, nuclear energy and renewable energy.
In this context, the emphasis on developed skills and willingness of Vietnamese workforce is crucial.
To attain this goal, there should be close cooperation among policymakers, employers and training institutions to create a skill development system to better respond to the ever-changing working environment and new technologies and innovations.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) also recommended encouraging young people to study key sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics, especially females.
The improvement of core skills, such as communication, team work, creative thinking and analytical thinking, also plays an increasingly critical role in businesses focusing on technologies.
Converting the ratio of apprentices
Recently, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) has received more than 500 colleges and vocational schools from the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET).
The handover in State management function over vocational education from the MOET to the MOLISA is also a step forward, especially for the development of vocational training in the current period.
Minister of MOLISA Dao Ngoc Dung said that it is important to identify vocational training as a critical requirement at present.
If Vietnam wants to develop, integrate and improve labour productivity for growth model innovation, it must definitely focus on vocational training.
For the near future, it must firstly orient the next steps for students in the secondary educational level, deciding on how many of students would enrol in vocational schools education and how many of them would continue their study in high schools and then in tertiary education, Minister Dung said, adding that while the trend in many developed countries is a ratio of students enrolling for colleges at only 30%, Vietnam situation is the reverse.
Therefore, the nation needs to gradually wind down the current ratio of 70% to universities and 30% to vocational education, in order to match the world trend.
It should target improving quality of vocational training, increasing the number of people having jobs and raising incomes for apprentices, while public awareness on vocational education must be changed.
To realise these goals, vocational training needs to be tied to labour market need surveys and in close with enterprise development to guide and support vocational students.
MOLISA is developing an output standard for 200 national professions, 100 ASEAN-qualified vocations and 50 international-qualified careers.
The Government has agreed to let the ministry receive 34 international curriculums, ensuring students who follow these programmes are not only qualified to work in the country but also participate in the international labour market.
In addition, MOLISA also directed its General Directorate of Vocational Training to build a comprehensive renewal scheme for professional education, which focusing on planning a network of vocational education institutions to increase the scale and improve quality and effectiveness of vocational training, while limiting State subsidies for such schools and encouraging businesses to invest in vocational schools.
The scheme also targets innovative training programmes, standardised teaching, management staff and training facilities and equipment, and improving national vocational evaluation and certification issuance systems.