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22 Dez 2022

Tran Thi Minh Ha, Vietnam Insider

Vietnam: Women workers hit hardest by layoffs at apparel & footwear factories during economic crisis

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"Vietnamese factory workers laid off as Western consumers cut spending", 22 December 2022

PHAN Thi Nhieu has spent a decade assembling shoes for worldwide brands such as Timberland and K-Swiss, but she is now among tens of thousands of Vietnamese factory workers laid off as West cuts imports.

Almost half a million others have been forced to work fewer hours as orders fall in the South-East Asian country...

The cost-of-living crisis in Europe and the US — major markets for Vietnamese-produced goods — has seen the buying power of Western shoppers plunge.

Women factory workers, who make up 80% of the labour force in Vietnam’s garment industry, have been hit the hardest by the knock-on effect.

Early last month, 31-year-old Nhieu...was told she was no longer needed at Ty Hung Co, a Taiwanese shoemaker that supplies big Western labels.

“They told us they did not have enough orders,” she said of Ty Hung’s announcement that it would fire 1,200 of its 1,800 staff.

“I was so, so shocked and so scared, I cried, but I can do nothing, I have to accept it.”...

Now, with just two months’ severance pay to survive on, Nhieu must feed her family on a few dollars a day, and her kids are struggling to get enough to eat.

“We have no one to help us. I will have to get us through this on my own.”

Since September, more than 1,200 companies — mostly foreign businesses in the garment, footwear and furniture sectors — have been forced to sack staff or cut working hours, according to the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour.

Compared to last year, orders are down 30%-40% from the US and 60% from Europe, where inflation and energy bills have soared because of the war in Ukraine.

More than 470,000 workers have had their hours slashed in the last four months of the year while about 40,000 people have lost their jobs — 30,000 of them women aged 35 or older, the confederation said.

Taiwanese giant Pouyuen, a Nike shoe producer, has put 20,000 of its workers on paid leave in rotation, while reports said Vietnam’s largest foreign investor, Samsung Electronics, has started reducing its smartphone production at factories in the north.

The situation is bleaker than during the Covid-19 pandemic, say workers, who were helped out with food donations when strict quarantine measures forced them to stay home — and were quickly in demand again once restrictions lifted at the end of 2021...

The slowdown has come as a shock because export businesses in Vietnam were running at “their fullest capacity” for the first half of 2022, according to Tran Viet Anh, deputy head of Ho Chi Minh City’s Business Association.

“At the start of the third quarter, due to global inflation, consumption demands have shrunk, leading to the suspension of orders… and huge stock surplus,” he told AFP...

“I have never had the luxury of dreaming what I want from life. I have only one wish, of earning enough to survive,” Nhieu said.