Textile workers in Vietnam are victims of the slowdown in the world economy – 16.12.2022, 20:24
Workers leave the Taiwanese Ty Hung factory in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on November 30, 2022 (AFP / Nhac NGUYEN) #
After ten years producing shoes for international brands such as Timberland or K-Swiss, Phan Thi Nhieu was laid off like tens of thousands of other Vietnamese workers who fell victim to the decline in global consumption.
Vietnam, one of the world’s largest garment exporters, is suffering from a cost-of-living crisis in the United States or Europe, forcing them to cancel or postpone orders.
In this complex situation, amid inflation and supply challenges, the workforce, especially women, has served as an adjustment variable for companies worried about staying afloat.
More than 470,000 people went to work part-time in the last four months of 2022, and 40,000 others lost their jobs, including 30,000 women aged 35 or older, Vietnam’s most powerful national trade union (VGCL) said. .
This applies to a total of 1,200 companies, mostly foreign, in the textile, footwear, furniture or electronics sectors, according to VGCL.
In early November, Phan Thui Nhieu, 31, “cried” when his employer, Ty Hung of Taiwan, announced that two-thirds of the 1,800 workers at the Ho Chi Minh City factory were being laid off, including because of a lack of orders.
“I was so shocked. I cried, but there’s nothing I can do about it, I have to accept it,” she explains.
On a salary of $220 (about 210 euros) a month, he and his wife and two children survive on a 9-square-meter room in the bustling economic capital of southern Vietnam, where the average income is $370 a month.
– Survive –
It was better, he says, than when he made his living as a teenager picking mushrooms in the scorching Mekong Delta.
Worker Phan Thi Nhieu (d), her husband and children at their home in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on November 30, 2022 (AFP / Nhac NGUYEN)
Nhieu, who receives two months’ salary as severance pay, barely makes ends meet for his family. “We have no one to help us” in a communist country.
“I have never had the luxury of dreaming about what I want in life. I only have one dream, and that is to make enough money to survive,” he says.
For 20,000 workers employed by Taiwanese giant Pouyuen, a Nike subcontractor, the crisis is taking the form of forced leave, taking turns to share small jobs.
South Korea’s Samsung, the largest foreign investor in Vietnam, has reduced smartphone production.
US orders are down about 30-40% from last year, and for Europe, hit by inflation over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the figure has risen to 60%, the national union VGCL said.
Worker Phan Thi Nhieu (d) in her kitchen, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on November 30, 2022 (AFP / Nhac NGUYEN)
Workers believe the situation will be worse this winter than during the coronavirus pandemic, which forced them to stay at home and survive on food donations.
The revival that followed the reopening of factories gave them reason for optimism. In vain.
– Finding a job is “not easy” –
“It’s not as easy to find a new job as before (after the pandemic),” sighs Nguyen Thi Thom, 35, who was laid off by a South Korean employer supplying American retail giant Walmart.
Worker Nguyen Thi Thom on December 1, 2022 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (AFP / Nhac NGUYEN)
Tom, who has three young children, has been selling instant noodles, shrimp sauce and oranges to passers-by in Ho Chi Minh City’s posh new neighborhood since he was kicked out.
According to Tran Viet Anh, deputy director of Ho Business Association, Chi Minh City, the slowdown in activity is also considered a shock for Vietnamese export companies, which were operating at “full capacity” in the first half of 2022.
“At the beginning of the third quarter, consumption fell due to global inflation, which led to a suspension of orders … and a large surplus of inventory,” he told AFP.
Worker Nguyen Thi Thom and her children on December 1, 2022 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (AFP / Nhac NGUYEN)
According to him, the current slowdown will be temporary.
“2023 will be the year we increase production to compensate,” he assures, adding that Vietnam is increasingly seen as an alternative to China, whose Covid leadership has made foreign investors suspicious.