Age discrimination debate continues to rage in Vietnam

Last update: 00:11 | 14/09/2017

Many hard-working women are receiving unexpected termination letters from their employers and finding it difficult to get another job, says the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour.


With stellar resumes, many of whom have over 10 years working in a manufacturing environment, these women should have no problem locating another respectable position. 

There is only one problem— most of them are over the age of 35.

And in Vietnam, where blatant age discrimination is not only tolerated but expected, says the Confederation, people over this age need not apply.

Age discrimination against women is common, says Vu Quang Tho, director of the Institute of Workers and Trade Unions a department within the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour.

The practice robs the country’s economy of experienced workers and discourages women from investing more time in pursuing post-graduate degrees that could be highly beneficial, Mr Tho notes.

In addition, he says it drives far too many women into the vast, untaxed sector of agriculture employment, odd jobs and street vending, resulting in less taxes collected by the government general fund.

Mr Tho says that according to the results of a recent survey of personnel officers of 64 manufacturing companies operating in industrial zones conducted by the Institute, the older a female worker gets, the higher the chance they have of getting fired.

Female workers aged 35 and over account for roughly half of all individuals unemployed in the country, says Nguyen Toan Phong, director of the Hanoi Employment Service Centre.

Mr Phong claims that investigations by the Centre into the wrongful termination of women aged 35 and over reveals that their replacements are almost always female workers aged 18-34.

The problem seems to be more prevalent with foreign sector multinational companies than domestic manufacturers, adds Mr Phong.

But foreign multinational companies counter saying that the study also shows that most women (59.6%) aged 35-45 quit their jobs because they feel their wages are too low, another 39.1% leave work due to too much pressure and only 22.6% are fired.

Of the 22.6% that are fired, the multinationals argue that these women can’t follow simple instructions and are much to lax in their work habits. In other words, they are lazy and do not want to perform their work in accordance with the exacting standards required.

Much of the problem the foreign multinationals add is due to the country's relative youthfulness.

The country's median age is 30, compared with 37.8 in the US and 42.6 in the EU.

That results a glut of young people looking for work. And because many Vietnamese youths live with their parents until marriage, they're willing to work for much less than older, married female employees.

Many companies, they say, hire (younger employees) because they have smaller and less demanding family responsibilities, so they can live with less income and most often cause fewer problems than their older counterparts.

Lastly, the foreign multinationals point the finger at domestic companies when it comes to discrimination. All one need do, they say, is read the employment ads in any Vietnamese local newspaper and it’s obvious that discrimination against older female workers by domestic companies is commonplace.

So, for now at least, it seems the age discrimination debate in Vietnam against older women is far from over and continues to rage.


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