Internal Migrant Workers in Hanoi Face Poverty, Danger

Thousands of internal migrant workers from nearby provinces’ rural areas have come to Hanoi to earn livings by working tough jobs full of hardships. The migrant workers often gather at major markets of the city, including Mai Dong, Long Bien, Ha Dong, Buoi, and Mai Dich, to await people to hire them for day labor. The jobs could be cleaning up, gardening, destroying an old house or working on a construction site. Nguyen Xuan Thuan, 30, of Giao Thuy District, the northern province of Nam Dinh, sits on a pavement near Hanoi’s Ha Dong Flower Market to wait for work. “I can do anything I'm asked as long as it is legal,” he said, adding that sometimes he can earn about VND12 million ($515) a month. There are many rich people in Hanoi and they need workers to destroy their old houses to build new ones, especially in the last months of each year. “At that time, many people hire me and I even could earn VND1 million per day if I work hard,” he said. He's often exhausted after working several jobs in a day, Tien Phong (Pioneer online newspaper reported. “I always think if I earn more, I will have more savings,” he said. On average, after paying his daily living costs and for accommodation, Thuan can save about VND7 million-VND8 million to send to his wife and two children in his hometown each month.

Female migrant workers in Hanoi.

Similarly, to Thuan, Hoang Thi Hien, 45, of Tinh Gia District, the northern province of Thanh Hoa, said she came to Hanoi to earn a living two years ago. She waited for work at Mai Dich Market every day. Hien said she was a farmer, but she couldn't make enough to make ends meet, so she set out for Hanoi. She said earned up to VND300,000 daily on good days, normally doing cleaning and gardening work. Le Thi Tham, 50, of the central province of Ne An, said she had earned a living in Hanoi for many years after she divorced. “I do everything to have enough money to send my two daughters to university.” Tham and her four friends together share a rented room, costing VND1 million each month. She usually wakes up at 5am and goes to Buoi Market to wait for work. “The earlier you come, the more jobs you get,” she said.

Unstable and dangerous

Although the jobs they do are unstable and pose risks, the migrant workers have no choice as they need money to raise their families. ThAm said several years ago, there was a lot of work to do but things had changed. She had to collect scrap to earn more, Tham said. “Waiting for jobs is quite passive,” Thuan said. Some days there was a lot of work to do, other days there was nothing, he said. Thuan suffered an accident in August 2018 while he was hired to destroy a two-storey old house. He fell from the scaffold to the ground and broke his cheekbones. His medical expenses hit VND30 million and he did not have a health insurance card. However, the man who hired him only gave him VNd1 million in compensation. “Normally, for the kind of job we do, all transactions are agreed verbally, so it is difficult to ask the employers to pay compensation,” he said. Thuan said there were a lot of risks when doing this kind of work, but people like him had no other choice. For example, one of his friends, died of an electric shock when he worked at a construction site in Soc Son District. Electrical leakage was blamed for the reason. No one had to take responsibility. “It’s a sad story,” he said. A survey, taken under the project 'Developing labor and employment market' of the Ministry of Labor, Invalid and Social Affairs showed most internal migrant workers came to big cities to earn more money. The migrant workers were mainly aged 18-35, with 60% of them women. The survey found 65% of the workers were unskilled manual laborers, meaning the jobs they got were often unstable and in dangerous environments. The survey also found many migrant workers did not have labor contracts and therefore no social or health insurance. The survey recommended that managerial agencies must develop more supporting policies for internal migrant workers.

Supporting policies

In response to the situation, the city’s Labor, Invalid and Social Affairs Department has opened job sessions at employment service centers to create opportunities for migrant workers to seek jobs. Nguyen Thanh Nhan, deputy head of the department, said the department had asked agencies to keep statistics on internal migrant workers to issue more suitable policies. The labor ministry has launched a project since 2017 that includes support for migrant workers to seek jobs in employment service centers. Under the project, migrant workers are provided advice and information on employment in the city as well as job-hunting skills. It is estimated that Hanoi is home to 1.3 million internal migrant workers. (VietnamNews)