As they catch the last bus home for the Tet holidays, migrant labourers like Huan, a porter at Hanoi's Long Bien Market, dream of sitting around at the family dinner on New Year's Eve.

Tran Xuan Huan, 37, from the northern province of Hung Yen, has worked as a porter for five years.

"In the lead-up to Tet, porters have more work due to the increasing demand for fruit and other goods – and we are paid better," he said.

Normally, he earns about 100,000 VND (5 USD) a day unloading fruit crates from trucks and carrying them into stores, but before Tet, his earning may double or treble.

"My working day usually begins at 8pm and ends around 8am the following morning," he said. "Long Bien is a wholesale market which is busiest at night and early morning."

Huan said the work must be done quickly as hundreds of trucks headed for the market in a few hours and must be unloaded quickly.

"So, the porters are pressed to work in a hurry. The hard work makes us forget the night's chill," he said. "Even if it's down to 10 degrees."

"Hot or cold weather is not important to me. I'm a farmer, but farming could not feed my family. I spend about 20,000-30,000 VND (1-1.5 USD) per day on food and rent, the rest I send to my wife to manage everything at home," he said.

Having a break after an icy, long, working day, Huan said earning a living in a big city was becoming difficult as more rural labourers were forced off their land.

A 51-year-old veteran, Nguyen Duc Bong from the northern province of Nam Dinh, works as a porter at Long Bien Market from 3am to 9am and then at Dong Xuan Market in the afternoon.

Earning only about 100,000 VND (5 USD) a day, he is the bread winner for his family of four.

"My wife does the farming and I only come home to help her during harvest time. I work up until the last day of the old year," he said.

Tran Thi Hoa, 40, from Hung Yen province's An Thi District, said she delivered fruit to stalls from 2am, but received less than male porters.

"There are days when I earn only 20,000-30,000 VND (1-1.50 USD), just enough for buying meals," she said.

"In the neighbourhood of my hometown, up to 80 percent of families have members who go to work in the cities.

"I'm not at home during the year, so I like to go home early and spend Tet holidays looking after my children. However, the extra work I get during these days is to hold better celebrations for Tet."

The porters at the market are considered to be luckier than other manual labourers who sit along the streets waiting for work.

In Hanoi , manual labourers usually gather at intersections of Buoi-Hoang Quoc Viet Street , Giang Vo-La Thanh, Nguyen Trai Street , Mai Dong Bridge , and in front of Long Bien Market or Hanoi Station.

One labourer waiting for work in Hoang Quoc Viet Street, Tran Trong Dai, 30, of the central province of Nghe An's Yen Thanh district, said he would take any work, including portering, housework or removing building waste.

"Returning home soon or late depends on the money we earn on the days at the end of the lunar year," he said.

Another labourer, Ho Dung Thanh, from the central province of Ha Tinh's Can Loc district, said people usually hired street porters to do hard work, but on year-end days, they often hired women, or men, to clean houses./.