Housing projects for workers and relocated residents in District 2 of HCM City. (Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNS/VNA) - The minimum wage is too low for workers to survive on while social housing is inadequate and too expensive for them, trade unions told Ho Chi Minh City’s leaders at a recent meeting.

The more than 300 trade union leaders who were in attendance raised the issue of social housing for workers, lamenting that the number of houses is very low while their prices are high.

According to them, in the past when any construction or forestry unit was established, houses for workers and kindergartens for their children were built immediately.

But now industrial and processing zones attract tens of thousands of workers but there is no housing for them, and they have to rent ramshackle dormitories.

They demanded that local authorities should speed up construction of social housing for workers.

Nguyen Van Danh, deputy director of the Department of Construction, said: “Now workers in industrial and processing zones need around 245,000 places to live, but the city has only 5,500 social houses and 39,500 guesthouses for them.”

“The city plans to build 20,000 social houses more at prices ranging from 300 million VND to 1 billion VND (13,500 - 44,000 USD) and dormitories for another 35,000 workers by 2020,” he added

The union leaders also urged city authorities to look into the food served to workers by their companies and ensure its quality by severely fining violators and to provide more eating options in workers’ neighbourhoods by setting up supermarkets.

Most of the eateries in industrial and processing zones are now run by individuals.

Tran Kim Yen, chairwoman of the HCM City Labour Union, said: “City leaders and relevant authorities have paid much attention to improving the living standards of workers but the situation has not improved much.”

She said 10 kindergartens were opened for workers’ children last year.

Tran Thi Hong Van, chairwoman of the Nissei Electric Vietnam Ltd Company’s trade union, said: “The Government should hike the minimum salary… because the current level of 3.75 million VND (170 USD) [a month] is very low.

“Many enterprises claim to pay workers higher than the minimum level, but actually not many do.”

She also complained about workers being forced to work overtime: “[They] have to work extra very often -- around 100 hours a month.”

Tran Duy Bien, chairman of the Dae Yun Vietnam Ltd Company’s trade union, agreed with Van.

“To earn enough to live, workers need to work extra. They don’t have time for studies, amusement or family.

“The minimum salary should be enough for workers to live on.”

The city People’s Committee chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong said: “HCM City authorities always try to ensure people can work, study and live in a better environment. We have to try more but trade unionists must be close to workers to understand their needs and encourage them.”

He instructed authorities to be receptive to ideas and come up with solutions to reduce workers’ difficulties, especially through training.-VNA