Companies juggle labour shortages with big costs

September 17, 2021 | 14:58
Thousands of workers are returning to their hometowns due to the pandemic, raising the prospects of an acute shortage of labour when manufacturers resume operations.
Companies juggle labour shortages with big costs
Companies juggle labour shortages with big costs. Illustration photo

On September 9, Ho Chi Minh City coordinated with Phu Yen, Binh Dinh, Ca Mau, Vinh Long, Bac Lieu, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, and Dong Thap provinces to help about 2,700 people residing in the city back to return to their hometowns. In recent weeks, tens of thousands more workers have left the city, either with support or on their own accord.

At the same time, Dong Nai Industrial Zones Management Authority is considering authorising more than 1,000 employees of 16 enterprises in Dong Nai province to return to their hometowns after companies either ran out of orders or suspended production.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, workers have been going back to their hometowns in droves after being laid off or sent on leave. However, business associations from across various sectors have warned that manufacturers who were unable to maintain employee counts during the pandemic would find themselves short-handed when the time comes to resume production.

Phan Thi Thanh Xuan, general secretary of the Vietnam Leather, Footwear and Handbag Association said, “The labour shortage has been a problem even before the pandemic, and has only gotten more serious since then. Reopening production lines will be a huge challenge if the workforce is scattered across the country.”

Prolonged social distancing in the southern provinces has forced 80 per cent of leather and footwear factories in Ho Chi Minh City, Dong Nai, Binh Duong, An Giang, and Kien Giang (home to many large leather and footwear enterprises) to stop production. In the central and northern regions, leather and footwear enterprises are only operating at 50-70 per cent capacity due to social distancing measures and labour shortages.

Nguyen Chanh Phuong, general secretary of the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of Ho Chi Minh City, also said that the labour shortage has been growing more severe since the pandemic and now the nearly 600 handicraft and wood enterprises in Binh Duong, Dong Nai, and Tay Ninh operate at only 60-70 per cent of headcount.

Similar woes were shared by the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers and the Food and Foodstuff Association of Ho Chi Minh City.

Foreseeing these difficulties, several enterprises that were forced to suspend operations are now choosing to maintain the employment status of workers to secure a bounce back, despite the costs they have to shoulder until then.

Asia Bakery & Confectionery Pte. is openly willing to take on losses to ensure food and shelter for its workers. Similarly, Phu Nhuan Jewellery has also chosen to accompany staff amid the ongoing pandemic.

“We pay staff a salary advance, as well as send them packages of medicine and vitamins so that they can take care of their families,” said Le Tri Thong, general director of the company.

Also, Nam Thai Son Export-Import JSC is striving to secure second COVID-19 vaccine shots for all of its workers and has maintained sufficient workforce for production.

Do Thi Thuy Huong, a member of the Executive Board of the Vietnam Electronics Industries Association, said the pandemic has pushed businesses to the limit and has cost them a great deal of skilled workers who will be difficult to replace. She highlighted that the basis for resuming production will be administering both shots to workers, allowing them to return to the workplace in safety.

On September 5, the Trade Union and the Ho Chi Minh City Export Processing and Industrial Zones Management Authority organised second injections for 3,000 workers in District 7, with plans to administer shots to all 9,500 workers of the zone. At the same time, Dong Nai Industrial Zones Management Authority is boosting its seventh round of vaccination for 189 businesses with about 21,700 doses.

By Trúc Anh

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