Viet Nam News
Migrant workers often remain forgotten on the fringes of society.
by Hong Thuy
|Workers and staff from many parts of Viet Nam work in Dung Quat Oil Refinery in central Quang Ngai Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Long|
HA NOI — Migration would need to be mainstreamed into national poverty reduction strategies and socio-economic development planning if migrant workers’ lives were to be improved, an international meeting recommended yesterday.
Migrant workers are being denied basic rights such as access to health care and education, despite making a significant contribution to economic growth and poverty alleviation in the country over the past 20 years, the Migration, Development and Poverty Reduction workshop heard.
"Migrants are the main force behind Viet Nam’s socio-economic development. But their contributions has not yet been fully recognised," said Bruce Campbell, United Nations for Population Fund representative in Viet Nam.
The 2009 UNDP Human Development Report entitled "Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development," said incomes earned in urban and industrial areas in Viet Nam tend to be remitted to poorer areas, thereby helping to relieve rural poverty.
The report estimated that remittances from both internal and international migration in 2007 were worth US$5.5 billion, with an increasing proportion coming from internal migrants.
In HCM City alone, migrants have contributed 30 per cent to the city’s gross domestic product.
Yet, Campbell stressed that many migrants were vulnerable and required special attention from policy makers.
Professor Dang Nguyen Anh from the Viet Nam Academy of Social Sciences, said local authorities and employers had not paid adequate attention to improving migrants’ access to safe housing, health and social services.
Anh said employers and local authorities were primarily interested in the economic benefits generated by migrant workers.
According to the chairman of Ha Noi’s Dong Anh District Veterans Association, Trinh Xuan Lap, increasing numbers of migrants working at Bac Thang Long industrial park in Kim Chung Commune were being denied access to health care.
Lap said 93 per cent of migrants at the industrial zone had yet to receive household registration because existing laws restricted relocation from rural areas to cities and provinces.
Reproductive health programmes continued to neglect migrant workers due to their unofficial status, Lap said, adding that a significant number of female migrants had undergone abortions at private clinics.
Furthermore, because Government services are linked to having household registration status, migrants end up missing out on basic social services.
Ha Thi Ha Anh, a migrant worker at Bac Thang Long industrial park, said she had to share a 10 sq.m room with two other workmates because she only earned VND1.5 million (US$83) a month, of which VND700,000 ($38) went to food, electricity and water.
"I have to send the rest to my family in Nam Dinh Province," she said. She added that she had no money left over to buy medicines when she became sick.
"Sleep is the only remedy for my illness," Anh said.
Dr Truong Hien Anh from the Population Services International Viet Nam said the proportion of male and female migrants who had to self medicate because they cannot afford medical bills was 76 per cent for women and 70 per cent for men.
A survey conducted this year by international non-governmental organisation ActionAid, found that migrant workers were often marginalised and denied access to health, social, occupational and accident insurance.
It also claimed that migrants were exposed to difficult or dangerous working conditions.
In a bid to improve living conditions for migrants, the Viet Nam Academy of Social Sciences and the United Nations in Viet Nam said national development strategies should recognise the significant contribution made to the economy by migrant workers.
"Migration needs to be mainstreamed into national poverty reduction strategies and socio-economic development planning," Campbell said.
"To make migration work for the poor, we all must fully recognise the positive role migration plays in the development of both departure and destination areas, as well as to the individual migrants and their families."
According to the vice president of the Viet Nam Academy of Social Sciences, Nguyen Xuan Thang, the workshop’s recommendations would be used by the academy to compile a socio-economic development strategy for the next decade.
The workshop ended yesterday. — VNS
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