In Viet Nam the female participation rate in the labour force is high and the gender gap is low: approximately 73% of women are active, in comparison to 82% of men (1). However, the country ranks 76th out of 108 countries in its proportion of female managers. To understand this differential, in 2015, the ILO in Viet Nam cooperated with Navigo Search to investigate business hiring practices.
The research involved a review of 12,300 job advertisements published through the country’s four largest job portals (2) plus two online surveys - one was completed by private sector employers and the other was completed by candidates for mid-career posts (3). The aim was to discover whether gender-based discrimination was influencing hiring decisions or the working conditions and promotion opportunities available to women. This article gives a brief summary of the research findings.
Hiring Practices:The researchers found that job advertisements commonly mention gender in Vietnam: one in five included gender requirements. Of these, 70% specified a male candidate and only 30% asked for female applicants. Men were most often targeted for technical and highly skilled jobs or jobs that require more outdoor tasks, such as drivers, engineers, architects, and IT professionals. The review of job advertisements for managerial positions revealed that up to 83% of management job postings specified that a male was wanted and all of the director posts specified men. On the other hand, women were often preferred for office and support work, such as receptionists, assistants, accountants, human resources and general affairs. Overall the findings reveal clear gender segregation by occupation and job functions (known as horizontal segregation) depriving women of important opportunities in the labour market. As the majority of jobs targeted at men are higher-skilled and better paid than those for women, this also impacts women’s earning levels.
The findings in relation to job interview practices were also very revealing. According to the candidate’s survey, in addition to being asked about academic qualifications and work experience, two thirds of employers questioned the applicants’ on their availability to work outside of normal working hours. Up to 43% of employers queried the applicants on their marital status and 30% asked the candidates’ if they have future plans to have children. Notably, only 8% of male candidates were asked about their plans to have children compared to 31% of women candidates. These findings suggest that women may be suffering discrimination because they are married and of child bearing age and because of norms in Vietnam leave women carrying out the bulk of domestic and caring duties.
Promotion opportunities:According to the survey of employers, when making the decision to promote a worker, the most important factor for employers is the employee’s performance, followed by their length of service. However, their availability to work outside of normal working hours is identified as the third most important factor for the employer and is one that could lead to many women, as main carers in the family, being overlooked for promotion. In addition, although the laws state that the maternity leave period should be counted as part of the length of service (4), the surveys reveal only 60% of employers surveyed comply with this regulation, effectively reducing the length of service that is taken into account.
Recommendations to help narrow the existing gender gap in the workplace:Women represent a significant talent pool keen to develop their skills, work and contribute to increased productivity and growth in Vietnam (5). At the same time, in key Vietnamese export sectors, such as garments and electronics, technological advances will gradually lead to the replacement of many low-skilled jobs that women now occupy and increase demand for employees with technological skills. Promoting gender equality and diversity within vocational training, and across businesses and occupations, is therefore essential for women, for business and for the country as a whole.
This research identified both positive and problematic gender employment practices in Viet Nam. To address the negative side, the following are suggested; stricter regulations to prohibit stating gender preferences in job postings; more flexible arrangements for all employees (male and female) to manage work and family commitments; expanding the coverage of maternity protection to informal workers; improvements in vocational training for women and reform of provisions on sexual harassment in the Labour Code, including mandatory workplace systems and policies to address complaints.
Footnotes:(1) Viet Nam Labour Force Survey 2013 (Hanoi, General Statistical Office, 2014)
(2) The reviewed job portals include Vietnamworks (www.vietnamworks.com), JobStreet (www.jobstreet.vn), CareerBuilder (www.careerbuilder.vn) and CareerLink (www.careerlink.vn).
(3) The two online surveys were conducted in January 2015. The survey with employers and that with candidates for midcareer posts received 350 and 150 qualified responses respectively.
(4) Decree No.45/2013/ND-CP 2013, Chapter 2, Article 6 and Circular No.08/2013/TT-BNV 2013, Article 2
(5) Women in Business and Management: Gaining Momentum (Geneva, ILO, 2015)
Full report available here