Price hike burdens weary workers in south Vietnam


The current inflationary period has hit low-income earners hard as workers struggle to keep up with soaring rental costs and commodity prices.


Although prices traditionally have always climbed during the Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday, they have not slowed this year even though the holiday had ended nearly a month ago.

Quy, a worker in Bien Hoa Town near Ho Chi Minh City, told Thanh Nien that his monthly rent had risen from VND350,000 (US$22) to VND400,000 ($25).

When he inquired his landlord about the raise, she responded that she had sensed a “price storm” by observing events in television networks, newspapers and local markets and had adjusted her charge according to perceived economic conditions.

Many other workers in Bien Hoa Town complained that property owners had raised rents by VND50,000 ($3) to VND100,000 ($6) per room without any notice after they returned to work from the Tet holiday.

A female worker named Hoa living the southern Binh Duong Province’s An Phu Commune said she could not afford to purchase clothes and cosmetics after Tet.

While prices escalate out of control, most workers’ salaries remain stagnant, said Hoa.

Cashew firms’ revenues were also taking a beating from the weak US currency, which had fallen to below VND16,000 per dollar.

Many producers and processors were struggling to fulfill their contracts with international buyers, said the association’s acting chairman Nguyen Duc Thanh.

Delegations of customers from the European Union and the US are due in Vietnam this month to try to resolve the delays.

At Saturday’s meeting, Thanh asked cashew growers to honor their contracts with foreign customers to preserve Vietnam’s reputation as a reliable supplier.

The VCA forecast this year’s cashew harvest will be reduced by 30 percent if conditions remain unchanged.

The industry is still trying to recover from a slump in international demand in 2005 which cost VND1 trillion (US$62.5 million).

Workers now have to try to work extra shifts to earn more money while capitalizing on the perk of free meals provided for overtime.

Male workers, meanwhile, say they calculate extra shifts taking into account the extra financial benefit from having less time to drink beer.

Some workers in Binh Duong say they even resort to money-saving tactics like collecting water from drippy faucets.

Trung, a worker in Bien Hoa, said that with a combined monthly salary of nearly VND4 million ($251) earned by him and his wife, the family has to be thrifty to cover all necessary living costs and care for their child.

This Tet, only Trung was able to return to the countryside to visit his parents while his wife and child remained behind due to the overheating prices.

Some experts suggest that companies and factories should prepay salaries to workers after they come back from Tet to motivate them to perform better.

Several companies already withhold half of their workers’ Tet bonus until after they return from the holidays to reserve some financial flexibility for employees who come home from Tet broke.

According to government sources, inflation reached 15.7 percent in February, the highest increase since 1995.


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