By 2011, 48 percent of Vietnamese workers in South Korea stayed on in the country after their contracts expired, the highest proportion among the 15 countries that sent workers to South Korea, the department reported.
As a result, South Korea suspended a language test for Vietnamese workers in August 2011 and requested that Vietnam’s authorities take measures to ease the problem.
Four month later, South Korea agreed to resume the language test after Vietnam announced its solutions to the situation.
However, with the number of runaway Vietnamese workers in South Korea rising from 48 to 54 percent in the first quarter of 2012, the situation has not improved but worsened.
In response, the South Korean Ministry of Employment and Labor has restricted the number of workers from Vietnam and may suspend the recruitment of Vietnamese workers for a certain period, or even temporarily halt the agreement signed between the two countries in 2004 on “sending Vietnamese workers to South Korea under the Employment Permit System (EPS) program.”
Taiwan is also considering placing a limit on workers from Vietnam since the number of Vietnamese workers who run away has been on the rise.
About 6,000 Vietnamese workers quit their jobs before their contracts end every year since 2003, the department said.
As of December 31, 2011, 49,000 Vietnamese workers, 30,000 of them female, have run away from their companies in Taiwan, accounting for 41 percent of the total number of runaway foreign workers in the island country.
Hefty fees to recruitment agents
There are many reasons that led these migrant workers to violate their contracts but the main one is that they want to seek another job with higher pay to recoup the hefty fees they have paid to recruitment agents, the National Assembly’s Committee of Social Affairs said at a recent meeting with Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA).
Many had to pay 5-10 times higher than the regulated cost to be sent abroad for work and quite a few had to mortgage their houses for bank loans to pay labor agents’ fees, the committee said.
Some migrant workers said they had to pay hundreds of millions of dong (VND100 million = US$4,800) to get a work contract in South Korea.
After 3 years, they earned just about enough money to cover their daily expenses, repay their bank loans and interest. Not surprisingly, they chose to remain in those countries after the expiration of their visas to earn more money before returning to Vietnam, the committee explained.
Currently, the fee for a contract worker in Vietnam to be sent to Taiwan is $5,600-6,000, which is already higher than that in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, but some even had to pay $6,500-7,000.
To improve the situation, MOLISA said it would coordinate with relevant agencies to call on all Vietnamese workers in South Korea to return to Vietnam when their contracts end.
The ministry will work with its South Korean counterpart to strengthen supervision of Vietnamese workers there.
As for Vietnamese workers in Taiwan, the ministry has requested that all labor agencies not to collect fees more than the regulated rates ranging from $3,800 to $4,500 for a job under a 3-year contract in Taiwan.
Domestic labor agencies are also instructed not to allow foreign partners to recruit Vietnamese workers or collect fees from them in their names.
Next to Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are Vietnam’s main labor markets, where Vietnamese workers can earn VND20-30 million per month ($966-1,450), MOLISA said.