Light fines for working illegally in Vietnam have not been a deterrent to preventing the increasing number of illegal foreign workers in the country, according to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affair's Employment Department.

According to the Government's Decree 47, current fines range between 15 million VND and 20 million VND (720-960 USD).

Some localities have just slapped a light penalty on companies for fear of driving away foreign investment, the department said.

Fines for violations involving illegal foreign workers in Vietnam should be increased, it recommended.

The department said there is poor coordination between the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Defense and Vietnam's representative agencies in foreign countries.

According to local authorities, the number of foreign workers has been increasing year by year, from 52,633 (in 2008) to 55,428 (2009) and 56,929 (2010).

In the first nine months of last year, the number of foreigners working in Vietnam increased sharply to more than 78,440. Of that number, 5,581 had worked in the country for less than three months and were not eligible for permits; and 31,330 worked illegally (accounting for 39.9 percent).

Nguyen Dai Dong, head of the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affair (MOLISA)'s Employment Department, told Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper it is urgent to draft an Employment Law with specific regulations on foreigners working in Vietnam.

The law should specify conditions for working in the country and include regulations on issuing permits for foreign employees. It should also set out the rights and responsibility of labourers as well as employers who hire foreign workers.

The regulations should require investors to only use foreign workers for tasks that Vietnamese workers are unqualified to perform, he said.

Currently, MOLISA has asked for opinions from relevant agencies to submit a proposal to the Government in June and to the National Assembly in October.

Dong said MOLISA will propose intensifying inspections on recruitment, visa issues, the issue and extension of labour permits, and management of exit and entry, especially for foreign contractors who operate in Vietnam and use foreign workers./.