Enterprise in the southern provinces of Vietnam that have resumed operation after the end of the social distancing period are facing a shortage of workers.

Pham Oanh, whose hometown is in Thua Thien-Hue province, has been a construction worker in the southern provinces for about 10 years. Normally, he returns to work in the southern provinces after the Tet (Lunar New Year) holidays.

However, after the Covid-19 outbreak, he decided to look for a job in his hometown and is now working at a cement company in the province.

Pham Kim Yen, who lives in the same province and works for a foreign-owned garment export company in Binh Duong province, said her company had to temporarily close for a few months.

“I had to look for another job and now I work for a local garment company. The income is lower than when I worked in Binh Duong. However, I don’t have to pay rent for a house and the living cost in Binh Duong is higher than in Thua Thien-Hue,” she said.

Truong Thi Thuy Lien, director of a leather and footwear export company in Binh Duong, said many workers who had returned home for the Lunar New Year holiday did not return to work because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “My company is constantly recruiting but it is not enough. The estimated shortage is about 15 per cent.”

Le Nhat Tuong, chairman of footwear manufacturer Pou Sung Vietnam Co Ltd in Dong Nai province, said the company had built more factories and planned to recruit about 10,000 workers this year.

However, since the beginning of the year, only 1,000 new employees have been recruited, and the recruitment plan has been suspended, he said.

In addition to adding more workers when there is a need to expand production, Pou Sung annually recruits new employees to supplement workers and ‘job skippers’, said Tuong.

The food service sector also faces a shortage of workers. Many restaurants, cafes, and commercial services in Ho Chi Minh City have had to scale down or close because of the shortage of workers.

Le Thanh Nhan, the owner of a large restaurant in the city’s District 1, said that of his 100 workers, “more than half are from central provinces and they have not returned because the Covid-19 pandemic is not fully under control”.

Lien’s footwear company has decided to outsource some stages of production when there are too many orders.

Pou Sung will invest in technology to reduce manual labour, continue its annual recruitment and training plans for employees, and provide incentive policies for new employees, said Tuong.