OSH Profile: Viet Nam

BY  ADMIN

The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam is entering a new era in OSH. With the passage on 25 June 2015 of a new OSH Law, Viet Nam has for the first time extended legislative OSH protections to all workers, including workers in the informal economy. In particular, the new OSH Law includes the establishment of an injury compensation system for workers in the informal economy, which constitute over 60% of the country’s workforce.

International commitments

Viet Nam has ratified two of the key OSH conventions, the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155) and the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187).

Legislative and regulatory framework

The new Law on Occupational Safety and Health enacted on 25 June 2015, took effect in July 2016. This legislation extends OSH protections and activities to workers in the informal sector, which accounts for more than half of workers. The legislation includes the establishment of a voluntary occupational accident and disease insurance scheme for informal workers and the provision of information and education on OSH.

The extension of coverage to the informal economy is a major resource and capacity challenge. The Government has requested technical assistance from the ILO to support its implementation of the new Law. For many years, the ILO has assisted Viet Nam in developing its OSH Programme, and supported the development of the new OSH Law through technical assistance, including by facilitating national consultations with the social partners and other stakeholders. Through this project, the ILO will continue its support to MOLISA in the development of several of the new OSH Law’s implementation decrees. These decrees are to be effective before the new Law comes into force. USDOL has also assisted OSH policy development in Viet Nam, organizing a study tour for a high level delegation to the United States and through its bilateral policy dialogue with the country on labour and employment issues. 

A 2014 ILO literature review on the informal economy in Viet Nam advises that the concept would benefit from better definition, and legal recognition. While progress has been made, national surveys on the informal economy are limited by the absence of full official recognition. Understanding OSH risks prevalent in informal conditions, and implementing suitable intervention strategies, remains a challenge. Encouragingly, national employment policies have begun to acknowledge the concept of informality in Viet Nam, including legislation focusing on young workers, and the Government increasingly supports the informal economy through targeted policies and the extension of social protection policies.  

A significant proportion of the approximate one million young people entering the labour market every year in Viet Nam eventually find employment or launch their own micro business in the informal economy. They enter the labour market with limited knowledge of their workplace rights or of basic safety and health practices. Young workers in particular generally lack the necessary training, skills and experience to identify workplace hazards, and assess risks. With little training, qualifications, or seniority, they are often put to work without adequate training, mentoring or basic personal protective equipment. They are often tasked with difficult jobs and required to work in situations exposing them to a variety of hazards. Young workers also are made to work long hours, without proper rest. They often work in circumstances of precarious employment, and lack the ability to voice safety and health concerns in a hierarchical society. The project will work together with Government agencies and relevant stakeholders including the social partners, schools and TVET institutions in a sector-based approach to improve OSH outcomes particularly for young workers. To the extent possible, the project will align its activities with the existing/new National OSH Programme and with on-going ILO initiatives under ILO Outcomes 2 (Enterprises, cooperatives and informal business establishments have improved business environment, access to services and better working conditions for sustainable development) and 6 (Tripartite constituents have strengthened capacity to apply international labour standards, including through strengthened labour administration, and to meet the challenges of international integration) of the Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) for 2012-2016.

Current developments in the national OSH system in Viet Nam indicate that project interventions to support to the capacity of relevant networks in the country to effectively address OSH issues facing young workers and young employers in the craft villages sector would be in line with national priorities. In particular, the Prime Minister of Viet Nam recently approved a new five-year National Programme on Vocational Training, Employment and Labour Safety (approved on 20 June 2017) aims to support the dissemination of OSH information to 50 high-risk craft villages (and 200 cooperatives) annually within its Project 3, i.e. ‘Enhancement of Occupational Health and Safety as Project’. In addition, the recently adopted OSH Law (2015) expands OSH protections to all workers in all sectors, including the informal sector which includes a large proportion of the craft village workforce. Meanwhile, one of the main objectives of the recently adopted National OSH Programme (2016-2020) is to educate concerned parties, including employers, workers and related institutions, to raise awareness of and compliance with labour protection legislation.

Young workers

In Viet Nam, workers under the age of 25 account for nearly 15 percent of total employment in Viet Nam.  A person can be an employee starting at the age of 15, but young workers are considered to be minors until the age of 18. The Law on Occupational Safety and Health includes measures for implementing Information, communication, and education on OSH. The Viet Nam OSH Law on Occupational Safety and Health specifies that minors, elderly workers, and those with disabilities who are engaged in hazardous occupations should be provided with a six-month health check. The Labour Code of 2012 states that minors should not be engaged in dangerous or hazardous work (including heavy lifting, manufacture or transport of chemical, gas or explosive substances, demolition, welding, diving and offshore fishing, underground work, slaughterhouse work, and construction). It also specifies provisions that employers should make for minors, such as a maximum work day of eight hours.

OSH policies and programmes

The government implemented a National Programme on Occupational Safety and Health from 2010 – 2015, and is currently implementing initiatives such as awareness-raising through mass media and online channels, training, and improvements to OSH facilities. The government has also approved a new National OSH Programme for 2016-2020. Activities covered by the 2016 – 2020 OSH Programme include support for strengthening the legal framework and provisions related to OSH expanding state capacity to manage OSH programs, improving occupational health conditions, and OSH education and training activities for employers and workers. The 2016 – 2020 OSH Programme includes specific measures for craft villages, including dissemination of appropriate OSH information.

Inspection and enforcement

The Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA) is the main regulatory body for OSH and is responsible for labour inspection. A 2010 assessment by the US Department of labour (US-DOL) concluded that, in applying the ILO’s guidance, the number of MOLISA inspectors is insufficient for fulfilling effective compliance responsibilities. High staff turnover was also reported to pose a limit to MOLISAs capacity for inspection and reporting. Labour inspection in Viet Nam is currently focused on larger businesses in the formal sector. Businesses in agriculture and craft villages have so far been out of the scope of OSH compliance and inspection. The recent expansion of OSH coverage to the informal sector therefore poses a substantial capacity challenge for the government. The KAB study found that, due to the system of regulation in Viet Nam and the fact that informal work places have not historically been subject to OSH inspection, the labour inspectors interviewed did not have substantial experience of OSH conditions in craft village businesses.

National OSH Profile

Viet Nam is currently updating its National OSH Profile, which was last published in 2006. The 2006 National OSH Profile recognized that there was a dearth of timely and relevant information on OSH, and that the Government’s “limited ability to record OSH statistics has reduced the accuracy of State management decisions.” The 2006 National OSH Profile also acknowledged the negative impact of quality OSH data, in that “The information connection among agencies to raise the effectiveness in implementing the activities of State administrators and avoiding duplication of activities has not been smooth, [and] the application of scientific research outcomes has been very limited.” The 2006 National Profile also openly acknowledged that there were severe deficiencies in databases on OSH injuries and illnesses. Consequently, the Government included in its National OSH Programme activities to address these deficiencies: to improve the “administration [and] effectiveness of … State management on labour protection and OSH; to strengthen the legal frameworks on labour protection; to conduct a comprehensive occupational accident survey; [and] to build capacity for the labour inspection system, occupational accident investigation and supervision”.