In Viet Nam, like in many other countries in the region, the significant share of informal workers in the labour force (71 per cent, including agricultural workers) presents a significant challenge in the design and implementation of COVID-19 support packages. In particular, as many workers are not registered in any database, programmes targeting specific groups of workers can be become a complex, expensive and time-consuming to implement.
In a world of ever-increasing economic integration, economic downturns can quickly trickle down from one sector or region to another."André Gama, Social Protection Programme Manager, ILO Viet Nam
While we navigate these troubled waters brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that we stand strong by the principles of solidarity our societies were built upon. Doing so, we should always prefer the risk of providing help to those who might not need it, to the risk of not providing help to those who desperately need it.
Resolution No. 68-NQ/CP takes important steps towards expanding the coverage and effectiveness of Government relief packages in Viet Nam by including new categories of workers to the beneficiaries of government support, and lowering the administrative burden imposed to beneficiaries. We must now wait for its implementation to assess its success.
The ILO believes that the Government is moving in the right direction when it comes to its COVID-19 economic support packages, and congratulates the Government of Viet Nam in starting the deployment of the package even when the current COVID-19 wave continues to present worrying patterns of evolution.
It is important we remember that navigating such troubled waters can also present important opportunities. Many governments across the world are currently opening windows of registration for informal workers to join social insurance, providing them with contribution exemptions and access to specific COVID-19 support programmes. Such an initiative in Viet Nam could become an important compliment to the ongoing efforts to reach the social insurance coverage targets set out by Resolution No. 28-NQ/TW in 2018, which focuses on reforming social insurance policy towards the goal of universal social insurance.
Making social protection systems more shock responsive could go a long way in guaranteeing that, in future crisis, the Government does not face some of the challenges it faces today when it comes to providing support to those most affected by those crisis."André Gama, Social Protection Programme Manager, ILO Viet Nam
There will always be a trade-off between the fairness of support provided, the speed of implementation, and the fiscal space needed for each different COVID-19 support package."André Gama, Social Protection Programme Manager, ILO Viet Nam
It is up to the Government to help steer the country through such stormy times, discussing and deciding where the optimal balance lies between these different dimensions, bearing in mind the positive effects that cash-transfer support to workers can have in the economy in the short-run, as shown over and over again across the world.
The ILO remains open and ready to support the Government of Viet Nam in any way necessary to mitigate the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge the people of Viet Nam to look at economic packages such as that put forth by Resolution No. 68-NQ/CP not as a cost, but as an investment. As a bridge over troubled water, which will help stabilizing the economy, keeping families away from poverty, and helping the country bounce back faster and better from this COVID-19 storm.