Vietnamese Millennials: ‘What is the point of doing repetitive work? I am a university graduate, not a robot.’
Some 55.1 percent of the 1.11 million unemployed in Vietnam are aged 15 to 24, according to the General Statistics Office’s socio-economic report for Quarter III, 2017.
Youth unemployment stood at 7.8 percent in Q3/2017, much higher than Vietnam’s overall unemployment rate of 2.02 percent.
In Q3/2016, 7.86 percent of young people were jobless.
The bleak numbers underscore the uphill battle young people have been facing in finding jobs that match their aspirations and academic credentials.
They have grown frustrated, either awaiting job offers at home or opting for temporary employment with moderate pay.
“While Vietnam does not experience alarming high youth unemployment as in many other countries, ensuring quality jobs for the young generation remains a great test for the nation,” said ILO Vietnam Director Change-Hee Lee.
Experts say millennials struggle to find jobs largely because companies tend to favor experienced candidates.
Nguyen Bich Thuy, 28, knows exactly how it feels. The Hanoi University of Commerce graduate has been unable to find an accounting job so she sells fruit and homemade cakes online instead. She earns just enough to cover daily expenses.
“I’m not confident of finding a stable job in the future,” Thuy said after having sent off dozens of application letters over the past few years, but receiving just a few interview invitations. “Without a stable job, without much money, I dare not map out any long-term plans.”
Another reason for high youth unemployment is that millennials, especially college graduates, would rather remain unemployed than take up blue-collar jobs.
There is no shortage of factory jobs. Many enterprises, especially factories in industrial parks in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong and Hai Duong are struggling to recruit workers.
Mass recruitment events organized by garment, footwear and woodwork producers in industrial parks outside Hanoi are common, said Vu Quang Thanh, vice head of Hanoi Center of Recruitment Service. But they consistently fail to fill vacancies that can amount up to 1,000 positions per firm.
Experts say millennials see factory jobs as lower-class work they don’t want. Even many less-educated youths insist on seeking office jobs.
Deputy labor minister Doan Mau Diep said unemployed people are mostly searching for high-paid, high-skilled jobs in areas such as financial services, business management and human resources.
Tran Duy Long, 25, is desperate for a steady job. He has been mostly unemployed over the past three years since graduating from a technology university in Hanoi near manufacturing hubs where factories make everything from T-shirts and shoes to auto parts and mobile phones. But Long will not consider applying for a full-time factory job because he thinks that it is beneath a university student like him.
“I have never thought of getting a factory job. What is the point of doing repetitive work? I am a university graduate, not a robot,” he said.
The problem can also be attributed to over-protective parents who continue to look after their children well into adulthood, according to Vu Tuan Anh, managing director of Vietnam Institute of Management.
Young, educated youths without steady jobs like Long hence pose a potentially long-term challenge to social stability.
This internet savvy generation has a tendency to spend on eating out and buying drinks like bubble tea, rather than saving, despite having low incomes.
HCMC-based market research firm Decision Lab said 56 percent of 16,000 surveyed urban youths born between 1995 and 2002 earned no money or made less than VND3 million ($132) per month, and only 35 percent of them made between VND3 million and VND7.5 million a month.
But they spent on average VND890,000 ($40) a month eating out.