Fourteen years ago, after graduating high school, he had struggled to find a well-paid job. With his family's help he paid a broker around VND100 million ($4,166) for getting a job in Taiwan.
He and his family have never looked back since. In nine years, he had saved enough money to build a house in town, finishing it around six months ago.
But he has yet to stay in it for even a day, and wants to work abroad as long as he can to earn some more money for a new life.
“At first I thought I would come back home after three years. However, I realized later that my savings were not enough to marry and raise children. I think I will probably stay in Taiwan for a long time. I don't know when I will return. I cannot find such a well-paid job in Vietnam.”
He says in Taiwan he earns two or three times what he would in Vietnam.
Besides, since because of his job he does not have much time to spend his money, he saves a big portion of his income.
“I spend my youth here in exchange for a better life in future. Moreover, I have learned a lot from the Taiwanese people while working with them. The weather is lovely and the environment is clean. Public transport is convenient.”
Though many Vietnamese like Tam enjoy living abroad, most want to come back home one day after saving “enough” money.
But since “enough” is a hazy concept at best, many keep extending their labor contracts.
Tam renews his every three years. Taiwan, where nearly half of the 45,000 Vietnamese workers going abroad in 2021 went, increased the basic salary to TWD25,250 (VND20.3 million, US$867) a month.
Given demand for labor is high and it is not too difficult to renew labor contracts and a comfortable working environment, Vietnamese workers in Taiwan hesitate to return home.
The situation is similar in Japan, where many sectors struggle with lack of manpower and Vietnamese workers choose to live there as long as they can.
Quy, 32, has been working in Japan for 10 years. He says his income is 10 times what he might get in Vietnam
“Life in Japan is more comfortable and convenient than in Vietnam. However, here I spend most of my time working, so it's quite a stressful life. The main reason I live here is to earn money. I am still young enough to work hard. I will try to earn enough money for a new life in Vietnam in future.”
His long-term plans include returning home for good.
Recently he quit a job he had been doing for 10 years, and is preparing to open his own restaurant this year. His plan is to run his own business in Japan for the next 10 years before returning home.
“My monthly income here is about VND40 million while in Vietnam it may be VND10-15 million.”
In fact, many Vietnamese workers returning home from developed countries find it difficult to find jobs with similar wages. The added shock from the work culture here means they prefer to remain abroad.
Minh Anh, 25, used to work in Japan for three years, and struggled to find a good job
“I don't have a university degree. My Japanese was not good enough to get an office job. So I applied for a job at a factory. It was more stressful than my job in Japan, not to mention a lower salary. I often
“When I received my salary, which was only about VND6 million including overtime pay, I was surprised. How could I live with such a low salary?”, she recalls.
Thiem, 42, used to work in Taiwan for 16 years.
“I used to work as an electrician. After returning home I realized the working environment and labor market in Vietnam were completely different from those in Taiwan.
“For example, to set up an air conditioner in Taiwan, I am provided with a lot of safety equipment. In Vietnam, there is nothing to guarantee my safety. Although it is a dangerous job, I was entitled to a lot of benefits from my insurance.”
Both Minh Anh and Thiem now intend to find jobs abroad again.
According to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids, and Social Welfare, there are 600,000 Vietnamese working in more than 40 countries and territories with steady incomes. They remit home an estimated US$3-3.5 billion every year.
The number of guest workers has been increasing at an average of 10% a year. These are the official numbers, but there are many more working illegally in foreign countries.
Foreign companies in Vietnam say if a worker has the required skills and performs well, they can get a good salary.
They add that many of them are in need of skilled, experienced and multilingual workers.
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