Viet Nam’s jobs on post COVID-19 recovery but still below pre-pandemic levels

New national labour force data produced with ILO technical support shows 32.1 million people aged 15 and above suffered from negative impacts by COVID-19.

News | 06 January 2021
© ILO/Nguyen Viet Thanh
HANOI (ILO News) – Viet Nam’s labour market has seen positive recovery trends in the last quarter of 2020, but labour force participation, jobs and job quality were far from pre-COVID levels, shows a new report released by the General Statistics Office (GSO) on 6 January.

In 2020 as a whole, a total of 32.1 million people aged 15 and over nationwide were negatively affected by the COVID-19 in the forms of unemployment, staggered working hours, income decrease and working hour decrease among others. The worst-hit sectors were services, with more than 70 per cent of workers affected, followed by industry and construction where the pandemic took its toll on about two thirds of workers.

According to the “COVID-19 impacts on labour and employment situation in Quarter IV-2020” which received ILO’s technical support, the country’s labour market indicators continued the moderate recovery trend that started in the third quarter of 2020.

The country had almost 400,000 more jobs in manufacturing and more than 360,000 in service sector in the last quarter of 2020 compared to the third quarter.

The labour force also reached 55.1 million people in the last quarter of 2020. This means 564,000 more Vietnamese people participated in economic activity than three months ago but the GSO report shows that there were still fewer (860,000) women and men in the labour force in December 2020 compared to a year before.

The economic slow-down has translated into reduced availability of work opportunities, for a working-age population that is still growing on a year-on-year basis."

Valentina Barcucci, ILO Viet Nam Labour Economist
“Those who are not in the labour force are what we call ‘inactive’. When the GSO survey reached them, they were not working and, given the economic context, they were probably not looking for jobs either,” said ILO Viet Nam Labour Economist, Valentina Barcucci. “The economic slow-down has translated into reduced availability of work opportunities, for a working-age population that is still growing on a year-on-year basis. The floods and landslides in the Central Region are likely to have contributed and exacerbated the situation in some specific areas of the country.”

For those who were employed, the GSO report shows that the quality of jobs was on average lower than it was in the previous year.

“The COVID-19 has pulled many into unemployment while driving some into informal work. The dramatic increase of informal workers in 2020 is in contrast to its decreasing trend in recent years,” said Vu Thi Thu Thuy, Director of GSO’s Department of Data Collection and Applying Information Technology to Statistics.

Quarter 4 saw 20.9 million workers in informal jobs outside agriculture – or 56.2 per cent and a 0.6 percentage point up against the same period of 2019.

Incomes increased in the last quarter of every year, but remained on average below 2019 levels. The average monthly income of workers in the fourth quarter of 2020 was at VND5.502 million and the whole year’s average monthly income was 5.497 million, a 2.3 per cent decrease compared to the previous year.

“This will have an impact back on the economy, since households have less money in their pockets to sustain domestic consumption, the economy, and therefore jobs,” said Barcucci.

According to the ILO labour economist, findings from the labour force surveys can provide Viet Nam’s policy-makers with valuable information.

“Throughout 2020, the labour force surveys played an important role in bringing to the surface what COVID-19 meant for Viet Nam and its working people,” she said. “I am confident it will continue playing a critical role, in monitoring recovery in the months to come.”