Mar 18, 2013

Vietnam - Young intellectuals left scratching their heads

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No one expects to lose their job, but during this difficult economic time, even high-level corporate workers are being dismissed in record numbers.

Nguyen Thi Hang used to work at a large bank, but the economic crisis forced the bank to cut its staff.
When her family members go to work, Haèng stays at home with her mother-in-law, who frequently expresses her disappointment.

Nguyeãn Van Canh has it even worse. He graduated from an economic university in Ha Noi and worked in the business division of a real estate company, but one day the company was abruptly dissolved.

“I wondered how I would earn money to live,” he says. “How could I pay my rent and my children’s tuition and feed my wife, who is also unemployed?”

Canh sent CVs to a wide variety of companies with no success. Although he thought of himself as an intellectual, the lack of opportunities forced him to join the labourers in the streets. Some days he worked as a xe oâm (motorbike taxi) driver, some days as a porter and some days as an electricity and water repairman.

“If I don’t work hard, my wife and two children won’t be able to eat,” he says. “If we can’t pay our rent, we’ll be cast out onto the street. My current occupations are only temporary so that my family has enough money to survive. I hope I’m contacted by an employer soon so that I can get a more secure job.”

According to a survey by the Young People Research Institute, 70 per cent of Vietnamese students said their biggest worry was finding a job. Another survey showed that less than 10 per cent of scientific bachelor’s degree holders could find jobs at research institutes and universities.

Vu Nhu Quy obtained a Ph.D degree in bio-technology from Russia and came back to Vieät Nam with ambitious plans for the future.

“I planned to write textbooks to help change the way universities teach students and come up with new measures to treat livestock diseases,” he says.

But although Quy tried to find a job at many offices, no place employed him and the young scientist was forced to go back to his home village in a northern province.

The unemployment situation may not appear so severe because there are few people completely without jobs: if a white-collar worker is unemployed, he can still work as a labourer. But in fact, Viet Nam is facing a vast imbalance in training. When the country devoted itself to industrialisation and modernisation, 50 per cent of students were directed to “hot sectors”: business management, journalism and law.

Today, however, the thousands of students who graduate annually with these degrees are forced to work in unskilled jobs – serving food at low price rice restaurants, being domestic helpers and street vendors.

And when Viet Nam sought to develop its information technology industry, the universities began to release thousands of software engineers every year, even though the country needs experts from different industries who are also knowledgeable about technology more than people who know only about computers.

As unemployment grows, people are increasingly concerned. But rather than letting worry and depression take over, it’s best to be proactive. And for those whose family members are unemployed, it’s important to be sympathetic instead of disdainful.

“A clever applicant knows how to take advantage of every opportunity,” says Vu Thanh, deputy director of Ha Noi Job Promotion Centre. “Employers always appreciate people who are serious and constantly pursue their goals.”


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