Moving toward decent work for female migrant workers

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Ha Noi, 28 March 2018 - According to a recent labour market scan survey in Ha Noi by Plan International, the majority of female migrant workers are working in the informal sector with limited access to social protection services, and have not been technically trained by employers. The survey also revealed that around 70% of surveyed migrant workers did not have an employment contract.

The 2017 labor market scan for female migrant workers in Ha Noi revealed that a clear majority of female migrant workers are working in the informal sector and have not been technically trained. Instead they have gained occupational skills through the accumulation of on-the-job experience in workplaces. Most female migrant workers surveyed do not speak foreign languages, lack computer literacy, problem solving and communication skills. The survey of 256 female migrant workers demonstrated that due to unstable employment, low income and long working hours, female migrant workers have fewer opportunities to study and improve their qualifications. The women surveyed have received very limited support from employers and 70% have not signed labour contracts, meaning lack of access to work benefits such as social insurance, health insurance, sick leave, and annual leave. 

Today, more than 100 experts from international organizations, governmental agencies, local organizations and academia have gathered in Ha Noi at the workshop "Decent work for Female Migrant Workers – Challenges and Solutions”, held by UN Women and Plan International Viet Nam, to discuss national and international experiences, effective strategies and interventions, and policy recommendations for Viet Nam to create a better environment for female migrant workers to access decent work.

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Opening the workshop, Ms. Sharon Kane, Country Director of Plan International said: “We are working together with government partners including Bac Thang Long Economic-Technical Vocational Training college, Dong Anh Women Union and LIGHT to conduct a project which aims to enhance the resilience and economic security of migrants in urban areas by providing youth (aged 18-30) with skills, leading to decent work opportunities. The need for decent jobs, a safe living environment and access to social and protection services at destination is real. Many international commitments support women’s economic empowerment, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and a series of International Labour Organization conventions on gender equality. Plan International supports women’s economic empowerment in line with these, and our programmes will continue to promote women’s ability to secure decent work, which contributes to advancing economies and sustainable development.”

Viet Nam has quite an inclusive legal and policy system on labour and employment including multiple policies and regulations aiming to support female migrant workers. However, the main question remains the enforcement of those legal frameworks and policies. In addition, Viet Nam has no specific policy on female migrants working in informal sectors, as most target labour groups in formal sectors.

Speaking at the workshop, Ms. Elisa Fernandez, Head of Office UN Women Viet Nam highlighted that discrimination and inequality fuel social instability and income disparities. "If efforts to close gender gaps and to promote better employment opportunities for women are not stepped up, current mega trends – such as climate change, demographic trends, migration flows and the technical revolution – will affect women and girls disproportionately," she said.

"The achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Viet Nam requires a systematic commitment to "leaving no one behind", and in particular, generating the conditions for decent work and access to social protection that are inclusive and respect the rights of female migrant workers in Hanoi, " she added.

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"We have not accessed information or counselling on vocational training and employment. Some of us wish to participate in voluntary social and health insurance, but we do not have information about it, and do not know where to seek assistance. In addition, if we pay for voluntary social insurance, it will not cover paid parental leave, paid sick-leave, occupational diseases or accidents, even though these short-term benefits are important for migrants like us” - quote from female migrant worker from the market scan survey (aged 26).

The workshop "Decent Work for Female Migrant Workers – Challenges and Solutions” was organized in the context of undergoing policy changes around social protection and labor rights, including the revision of the Labor Code, which opens opportunities for promoting an environment for female migrant workers to access decent work. Discussions highlighted concerns regarding women’s concentration in low-paid jobs in the informal sector, who are without access to social protection and outside the scope of the Labor Code. Recommendations arising from the workshop will be shared more broadly with relevant stakeholders and policy makers in order to improve the working environment for female migrant workers in Viet Nam.

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