[general_devel] Influx of illegal Chinese workers an open secret in Vietnam
Kevin Yuk-shing Li
kevinysli at graduate.hku.hk
Mon Apr 20 15:51:45 BST 2009
Influx of illegal Chinese workers an open secret in Vietnam
DPA (German Press Agency). Mon, 20 Apr 2009
Hanoi - Vietnamese officials Monday said rising numbers of Chinese workers
in the country may be costing some Vietnamese jobs. But some officials and
economic experts said there were good reasons for Chinese firms carrying out
projects in Vietnam to employ Chinese workers, even though many such workers
lack proper visas.
The issue has become controversial since reports last week in the newspaper
Tuoi Tre and the news website VietnamNet claimed that Chinese companies had
illegally imported thousands of unskilled Chinese workers to do jobs that
could be performed by Vietnamese.
"Foreign illegal workers certainly have the effect of taking away a number
of jobs that Vietnamese can do," said Nguyen Dinh Thiet, chief of the
Secretariat of Vietnam's Vocational Training Association.
Pham Si Liem, Vice Chairman of Vietnam's Construction Association, said such
workers were brought in by Chinese contractors on several major
infrastructure and mining projects.
"Using Chinese workers is more effective than using Vietnamese ones, as they
speak the same language (as their supervisors)," Liem said. "But we are
worried because this takes job opportunities from Vietnamese."
Vietnam has no official statistics on the number of illegal workers in the
country, Chinese or otherwise, said Nguyen Dai Dong, head of Vietnam's
Labour and Employment Agency.
But VietnamNet estimated that at several Chinese-contracted projects,
including coal-fired power plants in Haiphong city and Quang Ninh province
and a gas-turbine power plant in the province of Ca Mau, there are between
700 and 2,000 Chinese workers, most of them lacking work visas.
Tuoi Tre reported that Chinese companies working on bauxite mining projects
in Vietnam's Central Highlands were also using thousands of unskilled
Chinese contractors think Vietnamese workers are too unskilled and
undisciplined, said Lt Col Tran Duc of Vietnam's Immigration Department.
"They are afraid Vietnamese workers will steal material while working."
But using Chinese workers may be a simple matter of efficiency, said
economist Adam McCarty of Mekong Economics in Hanoi. Chinese companies win
large infrastructure projects by underbidding Western, Korean or Japanese
competitors, and can do the job most effectively with their own workers.
"The Chinese do things dirty but cheap," McCarty said. "If you do a deal
with them, accept that they'll do it the way they want to do it. You expect
them to take on a whole lot of Vietnamese who they can't control as well?"
If the laborers have no work permits, that is largely because Vietnamese law
does not allow unskilled foreigners to receive them. Only foreigners with
special skills are eligible for working visas, according to Dong of the
Labour and Employment Agency.
Reports on the Chinese working at bauxite projects in Vietnam's Central
Highlands suggested national security might be compromised by allowing large
Chinese settlements in the region.
But Chinese firms have been told not to bring in workers for the bauxite
mines on tourist visas anymore, said Doan Van Kien, chairman of the Vietnam
National Coal-Mineral Industries Group, the state-owned company that owns
And security concerns over the Central Highlands are overblown, according to
Carlyle Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the Australian Defence Force Academy.
"There is no real prospect of large-scale Chinese settlement that would
displace Vietnamese and ethnic minorities from this area," Thayer wrote via
Phan Dang Tho, deputy chief investigator of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids
and Social Affairs, agreed that illegal Chinese workers were costing
Vietnamese jobs, but called the problem "sensitive work." On April 3, the
government directed the Ministry to issue a report on how to deal with
"We will fine employees who have tried to use illegal workers," Tho said.
"Besides that, we will recommend that the relevant agencies expel them."
Under Vietnamese law, immigrant work-permit violations are subject to a
maximum fine of 20 million dong (1,130 dollars).
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