Sunday 27 April 2014

VIETNAM: Too many graduates for too few jobs

VietNamNet Bridge – The number of graduates produced by Vietnam universities every year is 10 times demand.

HR programming, unemployed bachelors, masters

That is the word of the unemployment report released last month by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, which spotlighted the high unemployment rate of workers with higher education.

According to the report, over 1.2 million workers were reported as “lacking jobs” by the end of 2013, accounting for 2.63 percent of total laborers. Of this amount, 900,000 laborers had been reported as “unemployed”, which accounted for 1.9 percent of the labor force. 

The proportion of unemployed workers finishing junior colleges (3-year training) and universities (4-5 year training) was relatively high, at 20.75 percent. More than 72,000 holders of bachelors and masters degrees are unemployed.

However, the figures have not surprised analysts at all.

Professor Nguyen Minh Thuyet, former Deputy Chair of the National Assembly’s Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children, commented that the situation was foreseeable: the number of workers with higher education simply far exceeds demand.

In a report he released in 2004, Thuyet estimated Vietnam would only need 13,000-15,000 new bachelors every year. At that time, Vietnam had about 100 industrial zones (IZs) and export processing zones, which could utilize 500,000 workers at maximum. Of the workforce, 5-7 percent had junior college or university degrees, 60 percent were skilled workers, with the remaining cohort unskilled.

Supposing that Vietnam developed 10 new IZs every year, and 10 percent of workers with high education retire, Thuyet posited. Vietnam would then need to prepare 13,000-15,000 new workers [with college degrees] ever year.

At the time of Thuyet’s report, ten years ago, junior colleges and universities in Vietnam were already producing more than 200,000 bachelors every year, 10 times higher than demand. Today, the “capacity” of the universities is now double that, at 400,000.

Under the national human resource (HR) development program, Vietnam set a target of 3.5 million of workers with higher education by 2015. However, the country already had 3.7 million workers with higher education by the end of 2013.

Deputy Minister of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs Doan Mau Diep said on Tuoi Tre that a large percentage of Vietnamese <intellectuals | degree holders> remain unemployed or have to take low-paying jobs because of the “oversupply of unqualified workers with higher education”.

However, ignoring warnings about the surfeit of workers finishing junior colleges and universities, schools continue to scale up, producing more and more baccalaureates every year. Vietnam is striving to have 460 universities and junior colleges by 2020.

Diep attributed the problem to an unrealistic education program. 

Dr Luong Hoai Nam, an analyst, has pointed out that 37 percent of university graduates cannot find jobs because they lack the necessary job skills. Moreover, 83 percent of them lack life skills, in the eyes of employers,

Nam, who as a senior executive of big corporations has interviewed thousands, noted that enterprises, or employers, usually have to re-train their employees before assigning duties to them, and prepare them with basic skills they should have learned at school.

Chi Mai

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