Tittle: Examination of Livelihoods of Street Vendors in Vietnam Researcher: TRUONG THI THANH PHUONG
I. Research Background:
“Work is a source of personal dignity, family stability, peace in the community, democracies that deliver for people and economic growth that expands opportunities for productive jobs and enterprise development.” (ILO) If a society wanted to develop, its foremost task is to create more jobs. Creating more jobs means providing investment opportunities for entrepreneur, working opportunities for employees to contribute to development of the economy, and the most importantly, providing opportunities for poor and disadvantaged people to earn income to support themselves and their families. The more stable individuals in a society are, the more stable the society is.
National governments need to consider creating decent works as one of the priorities on economic, social, political agendas of the countries. There is a necessity for guaranteeing rights of workers to work for their interests, particularly disadvantaged and poor workers, ensuring that workers have a safe working condition and earn an adequate payment for their work. To create Decent Work, it requires a cooperation of the whole society, from National Government, local authorities, international and domestic entrepreneurs, employers and workers. Providing decent works is a main factor to create a social justice, alleviate poverty and achieve sustainable development of a society.
However, providing sufficient jobs is always a big challenge for all countries nowadays. Vietnam, as a developing country, has gained positive achievements in term of economic development in the past few years. The economy has developed rapidly and attracted a large amount of foreign investments. However the national unemployment rate still remains significantly high and the gap between the rich and the poor tend to widen. A high economic development achievement doesn’t mean the living condition of all people in the country is getting better. Therefore there is a need for Vietnamese government to put employment at the center of economic and social policies to create a sustainable development for the country in a long run. The main goal of national policies should be, through the creation of productive employment, to provide better lives for people who are either unemployed or whose remuneration from work is inadequate to allow them and their families to escape from poverty. When designing a policy focusing on employment matter, the government should pay attention on the task of protecting vulnerable groups in labor market, including woman and child labor, working poor.
In Vietnam, street vending has become an integrate part of the economy for a long period of time. However, measuring and managing street vendors are always a challenge for national statisticians. In addition, the government doesn’t pay enough attention on protecting and helping street vendors.
II. Street Vendors Livelihoods:
Street vendors are a part of urban economies around the world. Street vending exists in almost all countries around the world. Street trade is a source of employment and income for many urban dwellers. However, in most of the countries, street vending is unaccounted and unrecognized in national economic statistics and viewed as an underground activity that undermines the healthy function of the formal economy. It results in conflicts with urban authorities.
Due to lack of employment in rural areas, many poor people move to urban cities with a hope of finding a better job and earn better income. However, jobs in urban areas are limited and those migrants are usually low-educated and do not possess sufficient skills to find a good paid job in formal sectors. To survive in urban cities, those people have to put up their own business to earn their livelihoods.
In Vietnam, street vendors trade in a number of commodities in different locations of cities and provide a variety of services. Most vendors locate themselves at public places with heavy human traffic, or some others walk from one place to the other. Vendors use different structures, including tables, racks, handcarts, and bicycle seats to display their goods. Others display their goods on the ground over a mat or a gunny bag, some others just carry their goods on their shoulders.
Street vendors sell in a variety of goods such as food stuff, flowers, clothes, household stuffs, newspapers, tobacco, lottery ticket, etc. They trade everything that they can carry around with them on the streets. The main market for street vendors is the pedestrians and motorists who pass by their own business. In some case, when street vendors have been doing business in a particular site for a long time, they will have their own regular customers and it helps them to expand their business beyond their customers. Some street vendors have their target customers. Some looks for customers in offices and homes near where they locate, some looks for students customers. Those street vendors are usually vendors who have lived and operated in the cities for years, so that they decided to invest in street trade. This kind of vendor usually uses pick-up trucks and bicycles to sell cooked food, fruit, vegetables and clothes.
1. Fieldwork Background:
Beside Ha Noi Capital, Hai Phong city, Da Nang City and Can Tho City, Hochiminh City is one of biggest cities in Vietnam, the leading economic centers of the South Vietnam, as well as the whole country.
- Population: 7,396,446 (2010)
- GDP of Hochiminh City in 2011 increased by 10.3%, higher 1.7 times than nation’s average.
The city has been divided into twenty-four administrative divisions since December 2003. Five of these (Area: 1,601 km2) are designated as rural (Huyện). The rural districts are Nha Be, Can Gio, Hoc Mon, Cu Chi, and Binh Chanh. A rural district consists of communes (Xã) and townships (Thị trấn). The remaining districts (Area: 494 km2) are designated urban or suburban (Quận). This includes districts one to twelve, as well as Tan Binh, Binh Thanh, Phu Nhuan, Thu Đuc, Binh Tan, Tan Phu and Go Vap. Each district is sub-divided into Wards (Phường). Since December 2006, the city has had 259 wards, 58 communes and 5 townships.
The economy of Hochiminh City develops quickly in the last few decades, it attracts a large number of immigrants from other cities and provinces to move to Hochiminh City. Besides, surrounding provinces like Binh Duong province and Dong Nai province, with the support from Hochiminh city, have developed very quickly in the last few years and become emerging industrial provinces in the South East Vietnam’s economic zone. This makes the South East Vietnam region more attractive to immigrants. On the other hand, the development of surrounding provinces helps to share the pressure of immigration phenomenon with Hochiminh City.
The population of Hochiminh City keeps increasing steadily. In 2010, the population increased by 194,887 in which the natural increase was just 10.35‰ while the net-emigration increase was 20.74‰. So, it’s easy to see that the population increase of Hochiminh city is mostly because of immigration.
Since Vietnamese government applied “Doi Moi” policy in 1986, there have been significant changes in economic and social life of Vietnamese. Vietnamese government planed to develop Hochiminh City to become one leading city in the South Vietnam. During the period of 1986 until now, Hochiminh City as one of the biggest cities in Vietnam has changed quickly. The significant economic development makes Hochiminh City become an attractive destination for the wave of immigrants from rural areas to Hochiminh City to look for a job and better income.
Immigration issue is always a part of urban development in every country. Immigrants in search of economic opportunity have had a presence in all sectors of the economy. In Vietnam, rural-to-urban migration has increased steadily in the past decades. Most of them seek higher income and working opportunities. However, some migrants are able to find jobs and make money for themselves and their families. On the other hand, some migrants cannot find jobs, they will end up working in informal sectors with low wages and poor working condition, and many of them become street vendors as a way for them to survive in the cities. Street vendors have worked in poor working condition, has low income and they are not protected by the social welfare system.
The waves of immigrants contribute to the cities’ economic growth. The arrival of immigrants stimulates consumption of, and demand for services, housing construction, as well as commercial and banking activities, indirectly promoting economic growth. However, the numerous waves of immigrants in recent years create a pressure on big cities’ infrastructure as well as social security. Therefore in such a case, to deal with the waves of immigrants, what should local authorities respond to the phenomenon of immigration? Bring them back to their hometown or Limit immigration or just leave them alone? The question is still a difficult question brought up to not only authorities of Hochiminh City but also authorities of big cities in Vietnam.
2. Fieldwork Activities
a) The Objectives of my research are to:
- Examine the current policy of Hochiminh City on Immigration issue.
- Look into the insecurities of life of street vendors in Hochiminh City.
- Recommend policy to help Hochiminh City to deal with Immigration issue as well as to provide street vendors a better living condition.
I have been in Vietnam for about 3 weeks, from 23 August, 2012 to 17 September 2012. I chose to do my fieldwork in Go Vap district because Go Vap has the largest population in Hochiminh (2009) and it is a suburban district what has a large number of immigrants living and working for short-term and long-term period.
From 25th August to 29th August, I had made contact with local authorities of Go Vap district, including officers of District Police Office, Ward Police office (Ward 10, Ward 11, Ward 12, Ward 16, Ward 17, Ward 4, Ward 5) I focus on these wards because these wards have the largest number of immigrants. I had worked with People’s Committee office and the Office of Labor- Invalids and Social Affairs of Go Vap district in order to gather available data. The difficulty I met while working with local officers was that junior officers needed to ask for the permission from their seniors. Besides, bureaucracy required a lot of time. It was not easy to get information from Police and Government offices because of privacy and security issues.
From 30st August to 2th September, I made contact with local authorities to manage the interviews with street vendors living around Go Vap district (mostly in Ward 10, Ward 11 and Ward 12). It took me a quite long time to conduct interviews with street vendors because street vendors are busy with their work. They start working since about 6am until 9pm or even sooner or later. Their working time is not stable. It mostly depends on their work every day. I interviewed 20 street vendors who are living in Go Vap district but working in Go Vap district and other districts around Hochiminh city.
From 3rd September to 9th September, I travelled to some provinces in the Central of Vietnam. It included Bố Trạch, Lệ Thủy, Quảng Trạch (Quảng Bình province), Cam Lộ, Triệu Phong (Quảng Trị province), Đức Phổ (Quảng Ngãi province). From 11th September to 15th September, I travelled to several provinces in Melkong Delta, including Cái Bè (Tiền Giang province), Châu Thành (Đồng Tháp province), Lai Vung (Đồng Tháp province), Chợ Mới (An Giang province). These are hometown of street vendors I had interviewed. I have to go back to their hometown to examine their livelihood in their hometown before moving to Hochiminh City. This is one of the most important works during my summer fieldwork because it will provide me deep insights into the push factors from their hometown.
In Vietnam, rural-to-urban migration has increased steadily in the past decades. Each year, many people, both men and women leave their hometown to come to big cities. Migrants today are a very mixed group, including seasonal workers, temporary contract workers, skilled migrant workers, students. Most of them seek higher income and working opportunities. Industrialization has taken places in urban areas in Vietnam for the last decade. With industrialization, there is an increase of a number of enterprises in urban areas, particularly in major cities, such as Ha Noi, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City, and its satellite towns. It demands more labor from rural areas due to scarcity of labor force in urban areas. Meanwhile, rural areas are facing the surplus of labor force, as a result of the imbalance between increasing population and limited agriculture resources. Therefore, an amount of famers in rural areas are now unemployed, causing they lose their financial resources. Because there is a shortage of labor in urban areas, and also a surplus of labor in rural areas, rural-to-urban migration has been a current trend in Vietnam.
In recent years, Hochiminh City has implemented policies to help immigrants who are workers working in industrial zones. For example, the local authorities co-operate with landlords to reduce the house cost, with electricity organization to keep the electricity cost stable, with industrial zones managers to provide workers better meals and health care, etc. However, at the moment the city still haven’t had any specific policies or even analysis of street vendors.
The city manages immigrants based on household registration book and temporary resident registration card. However, as police officers told me, a large amount of street vendors don’t register at local office and they tend to change their place often. Therefore, it causes difficulty for local government to make a specific analysis of street vendors. Some of street vendors said that they don’t know how to make a household registration book. Some others said that they are too busy with their daily work (They work about 9-12hours a day, and work everyday), therefore they don’t have to go to local office to register their household book. Some said that the paper work for household registration book is too complicated. It requires many kinds of official papers and it takes them a long time to finish the procedure, so that they are not willing to register their household book.
Street vendors are not protected by social welfare (ex: National Health Insurance). There are 2 types of street vendors:
1) Permanent residents:
§ They moved to Hochiminh city a long time ago and they have lived continuously in Hochiminh City more than 10 years.
§ Moved to Hochiminh City with the whole family.
§ Don’t have land/ property in their hometown or just have a small land, not enough to farming.
§ Don’t intend to go back to their hometown.
2) Temporary residents:
§ One or two members of a family go to Hochiminh City (Usually father or mother. In some case, the oldest son/ daughter will go to the city)
§ Still have land at their hometown. They leave their hometown because they have no job when the planting season is over. During that time, they will go to the city to look for temporary job to earn money and they will go back to their land on next planting seasons.
Hochiminh City has developed new residential areas to reduce pressure for urban areas. In the past few years, Binh Duong province and Dong Nai province have developed quickly with many industrial zones. Hochiminh City and surrounding provinces such as Binh Duong, Dong Nai co-operate to develop the main economic zone of the South East Vietnam. Therefore, it attracts a large number of immigrants coming to work in those factories. It contributes to provide more jobs to immigrants. It helps to share the pressure of immigration waves with Hochiminh City.