Vietnamese working in foreign markets have numbered roughly 80,000-90,000 per annum for the past decade, said Mai Duc Chinh, vice president of the VGCL, and they remit right at US$2 billion each year to the homeland.
One of the biggest reasons why the country cannot do without these remittances is its importance to promoting inclusive growth or economic growth that trickles down to the masses.
He said some of the money goes straight for the benefit of households and is used to address various household needs such as food, shelter, and education while in other households the remittances are used for business or investment reasons.
Higher remittances translate to less reliance on foreign investment and greater availability of currency in the banking system that helps the country service its debts, reinvest in the local economy and pay for its imports.
However, guest workers face a number of risks and difficulties such as being cheated or shorted on their pay and even sometimes suffer physical abuse when overseas, he said. Currently there are a lack of adequate protections in place to assist them.
Consequently, many workers are returning home before scheduled and very often face undue financial hardships as a result as well as have excessive difficulties finding suitable jobs upon their return.
To minimize these and similar difficulties for workers, the VGCL in collaboration with the Asian Foundation (AF) is giving effect a project to enhance rights for Vietnam workers while they are overseas.
One aspect of the project involves empowering workers with more information prior to their departure overseas by working directly with workers and trade unions to provide them complete and accurate information, said Mr Chinh.
The VGCL and AF are also joining forces with employment agencies in the provinces of Phu Tho, Quang Ngai and Thanh Hoa to develop communications manuals and organize employment meetings with workers.
Filip Graovac, deputy country representative of AF, in turn, said given the increased number of guest workers over recent years and the rising tide of associated problems they have encountered this program is essential.
We have even had instances where workers became victims of human trafficking, which just underscores the critical need for programs like these to protect the legitimate rights of the nation’s guest workers, he noted.