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More job losses reported in city as slowdown bites  (11/03/2009) 
HCMC, the country’s largest economic center, has seen another 5,000 jobs lost since early February, taking to 24,000 the number of people who have become jobless since the global economic crisis began affecting Vietnam’s economy.

The city and the country as a whole have been feeling the impact of the economic downturn since late last year.
The actual figure of job losses might be higher as this is a numeric account from half the district-level labor unions, said Truong Lam Danh, vice chairman of the HCMC Labor Federation.

He told a meeting between the federation and the city’s Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs that the district labor unions were required to submit reports on unemployment every two weeks but 14 district labor unions had yet to do this.

But these unions have blamed the lack of such reporting on enterprises, saying the employers have not updated them about layoffs.

The labor department has not had any latest updates about unemployment in the city. Nguyen Thi Dan, head of the labor and wage division of the department, said at the meeting that statistics about unemployment in the city had come primarily from the labor federation.

There are no punitive measures against those employers failing to report on any job layoffs, she said.

Le Thanh Tam, director of the labor department, told its district offices and the city’s labor federation to meet with the department twice a month. But this is just an ad hoc solution since the authorities cannot know how many new job losses there are unless employers report to them.

Despite the lack of statistics, he said with confidence that 78% of the laid-off workers had found new jobs, citing the many orders the companies would be fulfilling until the end of June.

The jobless still accounts for a fraction of the 1.7 million people of working age in the city. “The situation is not as stressful as reported by the local media,” he said.

Thirty-one companies at the city’s export processing zones and industrial parks alone have trimmed about 7,000 jobs in the wake of the global economic crisis, said Doan Thi Thu Ha, head of the labor office at the HCMC Export Processing Zone and Industrial Park Authority (Hepza).

But she noted some producers at the EPZs and IPs were in need of 12,000 workers, mostly skilled ones, so the laid-off employees had the opportunity to find new jobs.

The fact that skilled labor is preferred at certain enterprises has made the chances of looking for new jobs dim since most of the laid-off workers have manual rather than technical skills, she said.

In the apparent bailout of those enterprises reeling from the slowdown, the Government has pledged zero interest rate loans for them to pay wages, social insurance and unemployment benefits for their staff.

Truong Lam Danh, vice chairman of the city’s labor federation, said there was no guidance for this Government support program.

What makes him concerned about this program is that some enterprises might take advantage of this to lay off 100 workers or more to benefit from the program and then replace them with others, he said.

And others might have had plans to lay off less than 100 workers, he added, but the program might lead these firms to increase the number to 100 or more to get benefits from the Government program.

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