V I E T N A M      U P D A T E


April 17, 2003                                                      Vol.7:2003

Vietnam Labor Law Compliance Reference on CD-ROM now available

The Vietnam Labor Law Compliance Reference is a new product we have developed to help satisfy frequent requests from clients for information on the labor law and related regulations on health, safety and the environment.  

We know how difficult it can be to keep up with the latest regulations, especially at a time when new guidelines appear almost daily.  Therefore at the request of our clients we have developed this Compliance Reference to assist them in knowing which regulations are the most up to date and important for their business. 

For more information send us an email at Laws@Global-Standards.com.  

Further Readings on Corporate Social Responsibility  

We have launched a new page on our website featuring new publications and recommended readings on CSR.

These include a new title from Dr. Prakash Sethi,  Setting Global Standards which takes a critical look at codes of conduct and monitoring efforts.  Another recent offering is Globalization and its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz.  Also Common Interest, Common Good: Creating Value Through Business and Social Sector Partnerships and many more.

Links to these and other titles can be found on our web site at: 


SARS Virus Identified by WHO

On April 16th, the World Health Organization announced that a new pathogen, a member of the coronavirus family never before seen in humans, is the cause of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The speed at which this virus was identified is the result of the close international collaboration of 13 laboratories from 10 countries. 

"The pace of SARS research has been astounding,” said Dr. David Heymann, Executive Director, WHO Communicable Diseases programs. “Because of an extraordinary collaboration among laboratories from countries around the world, we now know with certainty what causes SARS."

The successful identification of the coronavirus means that scientists can now confidently turn to other SARS challenges. For example, various laboratories continue to work to unravel the genetic information of the SARS virus and compare the sequences obtained from viruses in different parts of the world. Experts are gathering at WHO this week to map future work on SARS.

"Today, the collaboration continues as top laboratory researchers have come to WHO to design the next steps, a strategy for transforming these basic research discoveries into diagnostic tools which will help us to successfully control this disease," said Heymann. “Now we can move away from methods like isolation and quarantines and move aggressively towards modern intervention strategies including specific treatments and eventually vaccination. With the establishment of the causative agent, we are a crucial step closer.”

This collaboration has brought together leading scientific expertise, and was established after WHO issued a global alert on SARS on 12 March 2003. The priority has been to find the cause and to develop diagnostic tests. Two laboratories in China recently joined this network of laboratories from Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

"Today, the first part of the mission of our network has been fulfilled, as researchers have both detected a hitherto unknown virus and established it as the cause of SARS. The new coronavirus has been named by WHO and member laboratories as "SARS virus," said Dr Albert Osterhaus, the Director of Virology at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. Erasmus completed the work to definitely prove that the new coronavirus causes SARS.

Over the past three weeks, due to the urgency surrounding the worldwide threat to health of SARS and early indications this was a new member of the coronavirus family, research has proceeded under the assumption that SARS was caused by a new coronavirus.

The 13 laboratories have been working on meeting Koch’s postulates, necessary to prove disease causation. These postulates stipulate that to be the causal agent, a pathogen must meet four conditions: it must be found in all cases of the disease, it must be isolated from the host and grown in pure culture, it must reproduce the original disease when introduced into a susceptible host, and it must be found in the experimental host so infected.

Credit for the coronavirus findings, which definitively pinpoints the cause of SARS, is attributed to the 13 laboratories, working in conjunction with WHO.

“The people in this network have put aside profit and prestige to work together to find the cause of this new disease and to find way new ways of fighting it," said Dr Klaus Stöhr, WHO virologist and the coordinator of the collaborative research network. "In this globalized world, such collaboration is the only way forward in tackling emerging diseases."

WHO and the network of laboratories dedicate their detection and characterization of the SARS virus to Dr Carlo Urbani, the WHO scientist who first alerted the world to the existence of SARS in Hanoi, Vietnam, and who died from the disease in Bangkok on 29 March 2003.

As of April 15, 2003, a cumulative total of 3235 cases of SARS, with 154 deaths, have been reported from 22 countries. This represents an increase of 66 new cases and ten deaths compared with the previous day. Nine of the ten deaths occurred in Hong Kong SAR. One death was reported in Singapore.

The latest updates, advisories and statistics on SARS are available at:


News Briefs

Vietnam steps up SARS fight 

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, remains a threat in Vietnam and to fight the killer disease, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai has allocated VND30 billion in funding.

Besides spending VND22 billion for purchasing medical equipment, the Government will also license the Vietnam-Russia Medical Centre to produce surgical masks conforming to World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

Meanwhile, the French Embassy in Ha Noi said in a press release on Tuesday that France would grant over US$100,000 to sterilize the French Hospital.

Japan granted aid worth more than US$520,000 to support Viet Nam in its fight against SARS. The new batch of supplies includes masks, aprons and gloves sent to the Ministry of Health by the Japanese International Co-operation Agency.

The protective equipment will be delivered to big city hospitals, sea ports and border gates.

Japan previously sent a team of six experts and coordinators to Viet Nam to organize workshops on preventive measures.

The northern province of Ninh Binh, the second area of the country (after Ha Noi) found to have SARS cases, has invested VND1.3 billion (US$91,000) in disease prevention. The funds were used to buy medicine, equipment and protective clothing for health care workers in the province.

WHO and UNDP held a memorial service in Hanoi for the late Dr. Urbani, one of the victims of the disease, who passed away on March 29 at a military hospital in Bangkok.

"As an expert in communicable diseases based at the WHO office in Hanoi, he was the very first to engage in action to stop the spread of the atypical pneumonia," Italian Ambassador Luigi Solari said on the occasion.

"It was the cruelest of ironies that he lost his own life to SARS while seeking to safeguard others from the disease," was Kofi Annan’s touching message to the memorial service.


ILO opens Hanoi office and launches child labor program

The International Labor Organization (ILO) praised Vietnam’s efforts to deal with labor issues and promised further co-operation at the opening of its representative office in Hanoi in February. 

"I have particularly noted the close attention being paid to social and labor issues and have been heartened by the efforts being made by the Government of Vietnam and employers’ and workers’ organizations," wrote the ILO’s Director-General Juan Somavia in a message read by Hanoi Director Rosemarie Greve at the launch on Monday.

Somavia stated that the organization’s support for Vietnam’s transition to an open market economy had grown exponentially since the country rejoined the body in 1992.

"I hope that with an ILO office now based in Vietnam, we can deepen this co-operation in the service of the Vietnamese people," Somavia wrote.

He also stated that the organization would develop a framework for its action in Vietnam based on the concept of "decent work". 

The director of the organization’s Asia-Pacific regional office, Yasuyuki Nodera, said that the decent work concept complements Vietnam’s 10-year development strategy and would promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work.

At the same time, the ILO also unveiled a 30-month project that seeks to to eliminate all forms of child labor.

"Under Vietnam’s Labor Code, it is prohibited to ask a child to do hard, dangerous work or come into contact with toxic substances," Le Duy Dong, deputy minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA), said at the launch of the National Program on the Prevention and Elimination of Child Labor in Vietnam.

The project will be implemented by MoLISA, the Ministry of Education and Training, the Vietnam Labor Confederation and the Vietnam Women’s Union, along with local governments and NGOs. 

The ILO’s International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor will provide technical support and training using a US$500,000 grant from the US Department of Labor. The Vietnamese Government will contribute US$43,000 from its coffers.

Dong said children exploited for drug trading, pornography or prostitution, and those forced to work in harmful conditions, are the major targets of the project.

By empowering the Government, NGOs and civil society, the project aims to eliminate the worst forms of child labor and rehabilitate its victims.  Vietnam already has enough legislation in place to address child labor violators, MoLISA officials said.

Vietnam affirmed its commitment to eliminating child labor by ratifying ILO Convention 182, "Prohibition and Immediate Action on the Worst Forms of Child Labor," in November 2000.


Vietnam ships out 10,000 workers 

Nearly 10,000 Vietnamese workers and experts were sent abroad to work in the first two months of this year, according to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA).

A large number of them are in Malaysia, Taiwan, the Republic of Korea and Japan.

Vietnam is planning to send an additional 50,000 people to work abroad this year, seeking new markets in the Middle East, North Africa, South Africa, Southeast Asia and North America.

Over 46,000 Vietnamese workers and experts left the country in 2002 to work abroad, the highest figure so far. This brought the total number of Vietnamese guest workers to more than 310,000.

Last year they generated US$1.5 billion for Vietnam.

To accelerate labor export, the MoLISA has strengthened labor management, helped businesses to better implement renewed policies, and strictly punished people who have violated labor export regulations.

Labor export executive boards have been set up in various provinces to allocate financial assistance to poorer workers and to help them get training.


HCM City to bring down jobless rate

HCM City hopes to find jobs for 210,000 people this year, lowering unemployment from the current 6.5 per cent to 6.4 per cent by the end of the year.

According to the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs’ Director Vo Thi Bach Tuyet, approximately 15,000 people will be sent overseas for work, while another 160,000 will be employed at manufacturing and trading services operating within the city. 

To achieve the 2003 target, the department will spend VND1.6 billion (US$105,000) on employment creation programmes, with most of the funding going towards job placement centres and job fairs.


Southern forum addresses strikes 

The increasing number of strikes taking place in HCM City was up for discussion recently at a working session held between local National Assembly deputies and the municipal Service of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (SoLISA). Training and the creation of new jobs were also reviewed.

The number of labor strikes in the city has risen remarkably since the beginning of this year. There have already been thirteen, whereas the first six months of 2002 saw only 18.

"The main reason for the strikes has been violations of the Labor Code by businesses. The strikes have been settled through labor unions, in accordance with the rules of the Labor Code," said Nguyen Thi Kim Ly, a deputy director of SoLISA.

"The city often sees more strikes in the first months of a year when workers force employers to reconsider their payment policy and end of year bonuses", she added.


PM Khai urges expanded role for labor unions 

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai has asked the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor to set an example for productivity among State employees as the nation prepares for economic integration.

Khai applauded the way the confederation’s activities had complied with Party and State policies. He also praised the confederation’s frugality and close collaboration with State and grassroots organs to resolve disputes between workers and employers.

The prime minister said that many non-State organizations still lack trade unions and there remain outstanding disputes between labor and management.

The authorities must work with trade unions to ensure that business law is followed and worker rights are protected, he said.

He also said that workers need to be more aware of the law. With over 4 million members, he said, the labor movement must strengthen its public awareness campaigns and embody lawfulness and the fight against social evils, crime and traffic accidents.

Confederation President Cu Thi Hau said trade unions play a key role in workplace education campaigns, such as those promoting skilled labor, creative labor and applications of technology. 

She had recently returned from a visit to the Republic of Korea (RoK), where she exchanged trade union experiences and attended the annual Congress of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU).


Vietnam launches fight against pollutants

A US$500,000 project aimed at protecting the environment and human health from the dangers of toxic chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, was agreed to by the UNDP and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE).

Funded by the Global Environment Facility, the 18-month initiative settled on February 25 will be carried out by the National Environment Agency under the ministry with technical support from UNDP.

"The project’s purpose is to prepare for the legal and institutional conditions necessary for the implementation of the Stockholm Convention on POPs, ratified by Vietnam in July 2002, when the act comes into effect," MoNRE Deputy Minister Pham Khoi Nguyen said.

The project will lay the foundation for necessary infrastructure, which includes disposal technologies for POPs waste and cleaner production methods to reduce the release of POPs.

Initial activities will include setting up a national inventory of pesticides and an assessment of the socio-economic implications and risks of POPs to the environment and human health in Vietnam.

Experts claim that of all pollutants released by human activity, POPs are among the most dangerous. They are highly toxic, causing an array of adverse effects among humans and animals including disease, birth defects and deaths.

In Vietnam, POPs are consumed by industries, used as pesticides to boost agricultural productivity, or generated unintentionally as by-products of various industrial processes.

They are seen as a leading cause of pollution and accidental poisoning especially because they are often stored in households of farmers who have little knowledge of their dangers.


HCM City cracks down on polluters

HCM City authorities once again urged entrepreneurs and factory owners to stop polluting the urban environment or move quickly to suburban areas.

This time, deputy chairman of the People’s Committee Mai Quoc Binh warned companies already in the authorities’ "black book" that any further delay on their part would result in forced relocation.

The city’s Relocation Program was accelerated after the Department of Science, Technology and Environment found 32 enterprises and factories in Go Vap, Tan Binh and District 12 heavily contaminating Tham Luong Canal waters with industrial waste.

Offenders like Thanh Cong and Thang Loi Textile companies were reported to have dumped 14,400cu.m and 3,600cu.m of waste water into the canal, respectively.

Inspections resulted in the People’s Committee of District 12 suspending the operations of My Thinh Weaving and Dyeing Factory and Tan Phu Cuong Co Ltd, until the firms took appropriate measures to treat sewage water.

"We will not tolerate any more enterprises and factories discharging toxic products, causing environmental damage and affecting the lives of people in the city," Binh said.

Fifty-two enterprises and factories listed in the "black book" were scheduled to leave their premises in 2002 and 2003. But many companies chose to stay longer, citing the high cost of relocation.

Binh said the city has designated a 500ha area in Northwest Cu Chi Industrial Park to host polluters from the inner city. By mid-2003, land plots will be transferred to factory owners for them to relocate in the course of the year.

"If they refuse to move, enterprises must either propose ways to curb the environmental problems in existing plants or convert factories to other business purposes," said Binh.

By 2004, another 30,000 enterprises and factories responsible for environmental damage in central HCM City will have to either re-settle or adapt. Authorities will take tougher measures against those who refuse to comply, such as withdrawing or suspending licenses or starting legal proceedings.

To help companies lower relocation costs and speed up the process, authorities have lessened annual interest rates on loans to 3-4 per cent.
Grants from the Environment Pollution Reduction Fund (up to VND500 million per enterprise) will be awarded to those prompt in their move to outer city zones.

"From now on, licenses will no longer be issued to polluting food processing and leather tanning factories in residential areas," Binh said.

"One of the major current issues is raising awareness of the need to protect the environment among the people and among owners of enterprises and factories which are contributing to the worsening of the environmental situation," said Binh.


Raising Labor Standards in Vietnam and China

Researchers Anita Chan and Hong-zen Wang recently presented a paper entitled Raising Labor Standards, Corporate Social Responsibility and Missing Links – Vietnam and China Compared.  The paper were presented at the conference “The Labor of Reform: Employment, Workers’ Rights, and Labor Law in China,” organized by the Center for Chinese Studies, the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, the International Institute (Advanced Study Center), University of Michigan, March 21-22, 2003.

The following are a few excerpts from this interesting paper. Those interested in the complete draft can find it on our web site on our Resources page:


Raising Labor Standards, Corporate Social Responsibility and Missing Links – Vietnam and China Compared 

The anti-sweatshop movement has targeted corporations for allowing sub-standard labor conditions in the factories that produce their brand-name merchandise. Underlying this campaign is the notion that corporations should be held to socially responsible standards. Many major Western multinationals have responded, in self-protection, by drawing up corporate codes of conduct. But despite the anti-sweatshop movement’s success in this, labor standards in the export sector of the developing world continue to decline. We continue to witness a “race to the bottom”, in which countries of the South lower their own labor standards and wages in the labor-intensive export industries in order to remain competitive and provide a “good” investment climate for foreign investors (Greider, 2001; Ross & Chan, 2002). This in turn sometimes drives down labor standards of the corresponding industries in the developed world (Esbenshade, 2001; Kwong, 1998; Ross, forthcoming).


In this paper we would like to offer two alternative possibilities, in addition to putting pressures on Western corporations to monitor subcontractors, for raising labor standards in the world’s labor-intensive export industries. This will require the anti-sweatshop movement to adopt a new paradigm: identifying missing links and players in the global chain of production. 


It has been seen in this paper how, for instance, the U.S. State Department took steps in Vietnam and Cambodia to improve labor standards by way of negotiated trade agreements. The anti-sweatshop movement would do well to bring pressure and persuasion to bear upon its members’ own governments. As observed in Vietnam, importer-state intervention can pay off.

Whatever the motive, the Vietnamese government agreed in these negotiations to what seems to be a new strategy that to expand its export market and thus also attract more foreign investment. It is a complete reversal of the race to the bottom strategy. Cynics may want to dismiss the government’s strategy on the grounds that Vietnam is a poor country with a heavy reliance on apparel exports, capitulating to American pressure in allowing its labor standards to be linked with trade. Even if this were the case, it would illustrate that pressures from abroad can motivate a host-country government to improve labor standards. But the reality is more complex. The evidence suggests there are elements in the Vietnamese government and the VGCL that are receptive to such pressures and can in fact deliberately use these to strengthen national policies on behalf of workers. Although such elements appear to be weaker in China than in Vietnam, they have had sufficient influence within the government, on their own, to shape increasingly good national labor laws. In China, as in Vietnam, appropriately applied pressures and trade inducements from abroad can assist these progressive elements in the government and union.

The willingness of Vietnam and Cambodia to raise labor standards in their own countries is the first sign of a possible upturn in the race to the bottom. But the chance of these two Davids setting new norms for global behavior for the Southern countries is slim so long as China, the Goliath that dominates the world’s cheap labor market, is not in the process of raising its own standards. As observed, Vietnam capitulated to this competitive pressure by giving in to lobbying efforts by foreign investors and the Vietnamese employers associations, despite the VGCL’s objections, to lengthen Vietnam’s maximum annual overtime work hours from 200 to 300 hours. The pressure to reduce wages and depress standards in the face of global low wage competition, particularly from China, is unrelenting. The Vietnamese textile and apparel industry faces an added uncertain future because Vietnam is not a member of the WTO.


Management & Social Responsibility  

The online management research collection Emerald Insight offers free access to a number of research reports on CSR related topics on their web site.    

Of particular interest: 

The impact of social responsibility on business performance
Mohamed Zairi, John Peters
Managerial Auditing Journal; 17: 4 2002; pp. 174-178


The new rules: ethics, social responsibility and strategy
Ian Wilson
Strategy and Leadership; 28: 3 2000; pp. 12-16


The myth of the ethical consumer - do ethics matter in purchase behaviour?
Marylyn Carrigan, Ahmad Attalla
Journal of Consumer Management; 18: 7 2001; pp. 560-577


Additional reports on corporate governance, ethics and social responsibility may be found on the Emerald web site at:


Links to other reports are available from the Global Standards web site at http://www.global-standards.com/Links.htm.


Resources on CSR, labor standards and the Vietnamese Labor Code are available at http://www.global-standards.com/DownloadResources.htm.  


Books and further readings on Corporate Social Responsibility, Codes of Conduct, Sustainable Development and related topics are available from our web site at http://www.global-standards.com/Readings.htm.


This newsletter is sent free of charge to clients, friends and subscribers by Global Standards.


It is intended for informational use only and should not be relied upon as legal advice.  Should you have questions about specific situations or the application of particular laws, regulations or standards, please contact Global Standards or your legal counsel.  

News Briefs are compiled from news reports and dispatches.  While the information they contain comes from published news sources, Global Standards cannot verify the accuracy of all information contained.

© 2003 All rights reserved, Global Standards Consulting Inc.