Social Justice, Socialism, Vietnam | 2024-06-05

Working Towards a Living Wage in Vietnam

Institute for Workers and Trade Unions (2019 to 2024)

A workshop in Hanoi given to trade union officials by IWTU on how to bargain for living wages.

Despite the rapid development of Vietnam’s economy, wages in the private sector often remain low. The practice of collective bargaining for better wages in factories or other workplaces is not very common. Until now, trade union work is centralized, as all local unions must be affiliated with Vietnam’s General Confederation of Labor (VGCL). However, many workers did not feel properly represented by their VGCL-affiliated workplace unions. Thus, in 2019, the National Assembly took measures to encourage VGCL and its affiliated trade unions to expand their efforts in collectively bargaining for higher wages.

The Institute for Workers and Trade Unions (IWTU) is supporting VGCL in this endeavor through research and skill-sharing. In collaboration with Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung (RLS) the institute launched the project “Raising Awareness and Building Capacity for Trade Unions and Workers on Living Wage”. The project consisted of a series of trainings throughout 2019 and 2020. They were aimed at bolstering the bargaining power of workers and VGCL-affiliated trade unions. The 2-day trainings took place all over the country. Experienced organizers introduced hundreds of union officials to the “living wage” concept, taught strategies of collective bargaining and simulated wage negotiations. Later, the union officials were supported in passing on this knowledge to the unions and workers they are representing. In 2020, IWTU achieved gender parity among the participants and managed to host the trainings despite challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since then, regulations and the role of VGCL have remained somewhat ambiguous. Considering the great success of living-wage-campaigns abroad, RLS started funding another IWTU project in early 2024. This “Achieving the Goal of Living Wages” project enabled IWTU to research trade union activities in the context of living wages across the world in order to discern concrete lessons for the Vietnamese context. This research aims to foster greater equality and dignified livelihoods for all Vietnamese workers.

Institute for Workers and Trade Unions (IWTU)

IWTU was founded in 1995 as a subsidiary of Vietnam’s General Confederation of Labor (VGCL). The institute conducts research, holds conferences, publishes and consults on the issues of the working class, trade unions and labor relations. VGCL functions as Vietnam’s only national trade union center. It was established in 1929 as the Red Workers’ General Union and is under oversight by the Communist Party of Vietnam.

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