Pham Hoang Hai - Executive director of ICHAM Vietnam
First of all, I'd say we partially agree with the scope of Decree 152 which has just been circulated by Vietnamese authorities.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many economies around the world are struggling to get out of the crisis and to recover. In order to do so, one of the main issues is to reduce the unemployment rate. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese economy is integrating deeper into the global economy and the inflow of foreign workers – experts, investors, staff and senior staff, among others – coming into Vietnam is also increasing.
So how can Vietnam filter out unqualified workforce to help the local HR market solidify and be more competitive? We believe Decree 152 was made to resolve this.
However, we do not agree completely. The world economy is changing so fast and along with it the labour force. There are many new businesses and industries that do not have a track record of the required few years.
It is especially true for the IT industry and the digital economy. How could an expert – no matter how successful – of a new business have an academic degree for an industry that has not existed until 2-3 years ago?
We believe the local authorities should be flexible enough to resolve this dilemma and we would suggest a few points. If the employer can demonstrate that the foreign person they intend to hire possesses competence/expertise that is necessary for the job and which Vietnamese staff can "barely" satisfy, there should be no difficulty in employing them.
Vietnam should open up its labour market to countries which accept Vietnamese workers without technical barriers. We are aware that this is still ambiguous, but given the times we live in, we think it is the most practical and efficient way.
Hoang Thi Na Huong - CEO, Protec
The definition and standards of qualifications for expert positions are difficult for enterprises to apply, especially those in the manufacturing sector like Protec.
In Vietnam, we are one of the few pioneering factories of bicycle helmet production to develop a global share for Vietnamese products. It is difficult to find technicians with knowledge and experience to professionally operation machinery and manufacturing processes in Vietnam, so recruiting foreigner experts must often be considered for solution.
It is difficult to invite them to work in Vietnam, but it is even more difficult to follow/secure the required papers according to Decree 152. Due to the pandemic, difficulties are even more burdensome on enterprises when the application for approval must be submitted to the People’s Committee of the province where it is registered.
The government should encourage enterprises to make decisions for their own human resources because they are the ones to bear the costs. They understand deeply the needs and effectiveness for this essential recruitment. We cannot pay an expert 5-6 times and more than a local worker unless they are indispensable.
The problem of cost is always put on the table for business leaders to balance the operation, but aside from that, we also have too many burdens to meet the management requirements of the government. In the current context, it really puts a lot of pressure on enterprises that need to employ foreign experts.
Federico Vasoli - Managing partner, dMTV Global
Decree 152, which in essence raises the bar for the employment of foreigners in Vietnam, follows a regional – if not global – trend aimed at ensuring that domestic talents feel more empowered by their country, especially with the job losses caused by COVID-19.
I welcome similar measures because, at least in Vietnam, they do not harm high-added value companies that should employ the best people, whether Vietnamese or foreign, and restrict the number of improvised ventures that thrive on asymmetries and inefficiencies. A professional firm, for instance, should only collaborate with the most qualified talents available.
One is welcome to come to Vietnam, as long as one is fit for its challenges. Perhaps a degree and a polished CV do not reflect the true value that a person represents, given the complexity of each individual, but they are the accepted tangible standard for these policies.
What is essential is that measures do not jeopardise the role of certain hubs, including Vietnam’s largest cities, and preserve cultural enrichment. In an ever tenser world, geographical and physical mobility of all classes – including students and retirees, not just high level employees – is vital in preserving peace and cooperation.
David Salt - COO, LOGIVAN Technologies
Whilst the government should work to ensure that every foreign person entering the country brings value to Vietnam, I don’t believe this update is a positive step towards that goal.
For technical personnel in academia or the sciences, a person’s education and technical qualifications can be a very good indicator of the level and nature of their expertise in a field of work. But for many business roles, the person’s skills and abilities are unlikely to be well represented by their undergraduate degree, and their previous role in a foreign country is likely to be different to the position they will hold when in Vietnam.
In this situation, market forces are able to deliver a good result for Vietnam and complicated legislation is not necessary. Businesses have a deeper understanding of the requirements for each role than a government agency can have, and are naturally incentivised to select the best person for each position.
Hiring foreign workers is usually complicated and expensive. Moreover, local workers have a number of distinct advantages, including familiarity with local customs and knowledge of the Vietnamese language that few foreign people are fluent in. Therefore, if a business chooses to hire a foreign worker over a local one, it is strong evidence that the person is indeed highly skilled in the relevant areas, and I feel it is not necessary to add further barriers to the process.