Wood-processing companies cannot fulfill big export contracts because of a labour shortage, the Nguoi Lao Dong (Labourer) newspaper reported on Feb. 27.

Nguyen Quang, director of Phu Long Tan Co. in southern Binh Duong province, said that after the Lunar New Year holidays, only 10 workers out of 100 returned to work.

Many workers who did not go back to work were highly skilled. Most of them moved to other companies, resulting in a significant labour shortage.

The company has struggled to execute its export orders because of the shortage.

"We have been hit really hard by the labour shortage," Quang said.

At a wood-craft village in Trang Bom district in southern Dong Nai province, many businesses were forced to curtail their production because of a shortage of labourers after the Lunar New Year.

The products made by the villages are for export, but few of the companies will sign big contracts, fearful there will not be enough workers.

Nguyen Thanh Nhan, owner of Thanh Nhan fine-art wood production facility, said his facility has only 20 workers and cannot fill big orders.

"For big contracts, I do not dare because I can't find skilled workers," Nhan added.

Most of the workers in the wood-processing industry are unskilled high school graduates. They are trained directly in factories or production facilities to meet the job requirements.

The salary for labourers is considered to be fair, with businesses frequently paying 100,000-150,000 VND a day for apprentices and 300,000-400,000 VND a day for skilled employees.

Huynh Van Long, owner of Minh Hanh wood facility in HCM City 's Hoc Mon district, said "despite the high salary, it's very difficult to retain the workforce because skilled workers usually jump to other jobs. Employees with professional skills open small-scale production facilities. So the human resource shortage has become really serious."

In order to keep and attract labourers, the wood processing companies have improved working conditions, salaries and allowance policies.

Nguyen Thanh Nhan said his company always gives priority to recruiting local labourers, especially skilled workers. The company trains the disabled and offers salaries and bonuses for them at the same level.

Thanh Nhan facility has invested in machines and modern technology to improve productivity and working conditions.

According to Vietnam Forestry and Wood Association, the country has 2,600 wood-processing enterprises and 27,000 small-scale wood processing facilities, with a total of 300,000 people.

The industry has set up wood-processing industrial clusters on a large scale in HCM City , Dong Nai province, Binh Duong province, the Central Highlands, the south-central coast, and Hanoi .-VNA