The relief package would include six groups of beneficiaries, people who have rendered services to the revolution, people on social welfare, poor and near-poor households, workers subject to labour contract suspension and unpaid leave at enterprises, individual household businesses with declared taxable income below VND 100,000,000 per year who had to suspend business activities, workers without a labour contract or who have lost their jobs..
To contribute to the government’s call for leaving no one behind, Mnet and Oxfam in Vietnam have conducted a rapid assessment among the most vulnerable groups of workers affected by COVID-19, the workers in the informal sector, particularly migrant workers. The rapid assessment, that was conducted in the second half of March among 2000 workers and migrant workers in the informal sector in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City, showed that COVID-19 is severely affecting their jobs and income. This group of labourers without a labour contract and migrant workers includes waste collectors, domestic workers, street vendors, unlicensed small businesses, motobike taxi and taxi drivers, porters at wholesale markets, and some workers in the service sector.
Even under normal conditions, income of most migrant workers does not meet the minimum living standards . Workers in the informal sector, especially migrant workers, do not have access to social protection policies, since most of them do not have a labour contract; they do not have social insurance, therefore, their employment opportunities and income are often seriously affected by shocks. The rapid assessment shows that most of these workers groups are now suffering from reduced working hours or job loss, substantial drop in income or even income loss.
The domestic workers mostly work on an hourly basis and do not have labor contracts, so they do not have any long-term job prospects and do not receive any compensations when they lose their job.
The group of street vendors who sell goods that are not considered essential are not allowed to continue their businesses when the policy of "social distancing" is being implemented. Ms. T. a member in a self-help group in Phuc Xa ward, Ba Dinh, Ha Noi shared “Since the epidemic started, my selling goods on the street shrank and now stopped altogether to prevent the virus spread. I know it’s neccesary to do that. But my family’s income totally relied on it. We are not selling anything now and no one hires us to do anything for money. We are living hardship day by day on very little”.
A large number of motorbike taxi and taxi drivers who borrowed money to buy vehicles are losing their jobs together with their ability to pay debts, and the risk of falling back into poverty.
Waste collectors still have to work every day, being exposed to the high risk of Corona virus infection, while they do not have instructions nor appropriate equipment to protect themselves.
A number of migrant workers who lost their jobs were able to return to their hometown, but about 50% of them are still living in Hanoi without jobs and income. Meanwhile, most of them still have to pay monthly expenses such as housing, electricity and water, without any financial support from their family in the countryside. They are facing a shortage of food and utilities.
Labourers without a contract and migrant worker groups also lack protection equipments such as good-quality masks, hand sanitiser, and the knowledge to protect themselves from the risk of infection.
To leave no one behind, the Government relief package needs to target its efforts by,
- Having clear criteria to identify those most in need eligible for the support package, namely workers (1) with no labour contract, or had their contracts terminated due to the pandemic; (2) earning less than the minimum income as regulated; (3) renting accommodation in the locality - for migrant workers; (4) with reduced working hours or are unemployed due to the pandemic; (5) with a bank loan for small business; (6) with a family member suffers from a critical illness; (7) working under high risk of infection; and (8) counting the real number of people living in the area, not on the number of people with residential registration.
- The Government ensures that workers without a labour contract and migrant workers in the informal sector, including (1) domestic workers, (2) street vendors, (3) waste collectors (4) porters at wholesale markets, (5) motorbike taxi drivers, (6) uncontracted taxi drivers, and (7) workers in the service sector are eligible beneficiaries.
- Formulate preferential credit policies for these groups with favourable interest rates, similar measures to apply to poor or near-poor households, reschedule debts payment and reduce interest rates for current commercial loans.
- Provide information, knowledge, and guidance on how to self- protect from infection risks taking into consideration the specific working environment of the workers without labour contracts and migrant workers
- The budget support for migrant workers affected by the COVID 19 epidemic is calculated and funded from the local budget where the migrant workers currently work.
- The setting of criteria to identify eligible beneficiaries, and the implementation of the support package are best done in consultation and coordination with social organizations who have in-depth experience and knowledge of the situation of the most vulnerable groups of workers./.