Vietnam's Labor Rights Regime: An Assessment

CRS Report for Congress
Vietnam’s Labor Rights Regime:
An Assessment
Updated March 14, 2002
Mark Manyin (Coordinator), Thomas Lum, Lois McHugh
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Phuong-Khanh Nguyen, Wendy Zeldin
Law Library of Congress

Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress

Vietnam’s Labor Rights Regime: An Assessment
Congress is currently considering the U.S.-Vietnam bilateral trade agreement
(BTA). Under the agreement, which was signed in July 2000 and requires
Congressional approval, the United States pledged to extend conditional normal trade
relations status to Vietnam, thereby significantly lowering tariffs on imports from
Vietnam, in return for Hanoi’s agreement to enact a wide range of market-oriented
reforms. Congressional discussion over the BTA is expected to highlight Vietnam’s
labor rights situation, a topic that has become a contentious part of the trade debate
in recent years. The BTA itself does not specifically address workers’ rights.
The evolution of Vietnam’s labor rights regime has been heavily conditioned by
the tension between maintaining political stability and promoting economic
development – two goals that often conflict. On the one hand, Vietnamese workers
are not free to form their own independent unions. All unions must belong to the
Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL), an organ of the Communist Party.
Analysts have observed that the absence of a true right of association in Vietnam has
impeded the improvement of labor rights in other areas. Collective bargaining
agreements remain the exception rather than the rule. Vietnam’s doi moi (renovation)
economic reforms, launched in 1986, have been followed by surging urban
unemployment and a rise in child labor, forced prostitution, and the trafficking of
women and children. Workers in all sectors of the economy are often exposed to
dangerous, unhealthy, and in some cases impoverished “sweatshop” conditions.
Rapid economic expansion, corruption, and shortages of funds, training, and
personnel have made it extremely difficult for government authorities to enforce
Vietnam’s labor laws.
On the other hand, since the launch of the doi moi reforms, worker rights have
made substantial progress. Vietnam rejoined the International Labor Organization
(ILO) in 1992 and since then the government, unions, and local groups have
intensified their cooperation with the ILO and other international groups. A
comprehensive and detailed Labor Code was passed in 1994. Among other advances,
it recognized workers’ right to strike. There is evidence that over the past decade the
VGCL and its member-unions have become more assertive – particularly on matters
relating to wages, health, and safety – a development tolerated by the government.
By many measures – the coverage of labor laws, the tolerance of wildcat strikes, the
slowly increasing clout of grass-roots unions, the relative openness of debate over
labor issues – there is evidence that the Vietnamese labor rights regime is more
flexible and responsive than its Chinese counterpart.
This report details Vietnam’s law and policy in six areas of labor rights: the right
of association/collective bargaining; forced labor; child labor; health and safety;
wages, hours and welfare benefits; and discrimination. This report also provides
international context by contrasting the Vietnamese and Chinese labor rights regimes.
Comprehensive information about Vietnam’s labor conditions are scarce. As more
information is obtained, this report will be updated.

Most Recent Developments........................................1
Overview .............................................. 1
Revisions to the Labor Code...............................1
The Right of Association..................................2
Collective Bargaining.....................................3
A Bilateral Textile Agreement?..............................3
Cooperation with the ILO.................................3
Cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor................4
Congressional Interest in Vietnam’s Labor Rights Regime.................4
The U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement......................4
Labor Rights and Trade Agreements.............................5
Purpose, Scope, and Organization of this Report....................6
Background: Vietnam’s Development since 1975.......................7
Economic Developments..................................7
Political Developments....................................8
Vietnam’s Legal Regime..................................9
Overview of Vietnam’s Labor Rights Regime..........................9
Vietnam and International Labor Standards........................9
The International Labor Rights “Regime”......................9
Vietnam and the ILO....................................10
U.S.-Vietnam Cooperation on Labor Rights ......................12
Vietnam’s Labor Code ......................................12
Enforcement .............................................. 13
General Issues Covered by Vietnam’s Labor Code......................14
Unions (The Right of Association)..............................14
The ILO Core Standard..................................14
Vietnamese Law and Practice..............................14
Collective Bargaining........................................16
The ILO Core Standard..................................16
Vietnamese Law and Practice..............................16
Workplace Health and Safety..................................19
Vietnamese Law and Practice..............................19
Wages, Working Hours, and Welfare Benefits.....................19
Minimum Wages.......................................19
Working Hours........................................20
Welfare Benefits........................................21
Special Issues in Vietnamese Labor Law.............................21
Forced Labor..............................................21
ILO Core Standards.....................................21
Vietnamese Law and Practice..............................22
Trafficking in Women and Children.........................22
Child Labor...............................................23
ILO Core Standards.....................................23

Discrimination ............................................. 24
ILO Core Conventions...................................24
Vietnamese Law and Practice..............................25
Vietnam and China’s Labor Rights Regimes:
A Comparison.............................................25
China’s Labor Regime.......................................25
China and the ILO......................................26
The Right of Association and Collective Bargaining.................27
Health and Safety...........................................30
Wages and Hours...........................................31
Forced Labor .............................................32
Child Labor...............................................33
Explaining the Differences between Vietnam and China ..............34
Conclusion: Implications for the BTA...............................35
Appendix: Vietnamese Labor Laws .................................37
List of Tables
Table 1. ILO Conventions Ratified by Vietnam........................11
Table 2. ILO Conventions Ratified by China..........................27
Contributors to this Report
Mark Manyin prepared the selections on Vietnam’s political and economic
situations, including the non-legal portions of the sections on Vietnamese labor law,
as well as the introduction and conclusion. Phuong-Khanh Nguyen, of the Law
Library of Congress, drafted the selections covering Vietnamese law. Tom Lum
provided the information on China’s political-economy, and Wendy Zeldin (of the
Law Library of Congress) the analysis of China’s legal regime. Lois McHugh
contributed the material on Vietnam and the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Wayne Morrison, CRS Specialist in International Trade, provided extensive
comments on the draft.
This analysis was originally prepared at the request of the Honorable Lane Evans, and
is being reprinted by CRS for general congressional distribution with his permission.

Vietnam’s Labor Rights Regime: An
Most Recent Developments
Overview. In the year since this report was published in March 2001,
Vietnam’s labor rights situation appears to remain fundamentally unchanged. The
Vietnamese Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) has spearheaded
a tripartite revision of Vietnam’s 1994 Labor Code. The revisions are due to be
debated in the National Assembly in April 2002. From what is known about the
revisions, they are likely to help improve working conditions at the margin through
such measures as streamlining Vietnam’s cumbersome administrative procedures and
expanding the country’s social insurance system. Notably, the proposed revisions to
collective bargaining requirements – outlined below – appear to signal the
government’s recognition that organizing at the grass-roots, enterprise level needs to
be further encouraged and facilitated.
However, by themselves the revisions are not likely to significantly help the
Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL) establish its credibility in the
rapidly expanding private and foreign-invested sectors. By law, all official unions will
still be required to register with the VGCL. Many workers in these sectors see little
benefit in joining the official umbrella labor organization, which traditionally has
focused on providing social activities rather than pressuring employers for improved
wages and working conditions.1 One result is that some workers have formed
unofficial, ad hoc labor associations to push for better conditions in their workplace.
Thus far, the government appears to have tolerated, and in some cases even
encouraged, this development. However, these associations are scarce,
unprofessionalized, and are not permitted to register officially the agreements they2
negotiate with employers.
Revisions to the Labor Code.3 In 2001, the Vietnamese government
accelerated its efforts to substantially revise the 1994 Labor Code, which forms the
backbone of the country’s labor rights regime. The drafting process has been led by
a four-person team headed by a MoLISA official, and including representatives from
the Ministry of Justice, the Chamber of Commerce, and the VGCL. The committee’s
staff includes a representative from the National Assembly’s Social Affairs

1 Margot Cohen, “Please, No Rabble-Rousing,” Far Eastern Economic Review, April 26,


2 State Department, Vietnam Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2001, March 4,

2002. March 2002 conversation with AFL-CIO official.

3 This section is based upon separate conversations with MoLISA, State Department, and
Labor Department officials in early March 2002.

Committee. The ILO and Western business groups – principally the Ho Chi Minh
branch of the law firm Baker, MacKenzie – have also commented on drafts of the
revisions. In June 2001, the drafting committee presented its revisions to the National
Assembly, which is expected to begin debating the measures when it reconvenes in
April 2002 for the first of its semi-annual sessions.
A number of factors have motivated the Vietnamese government to initiate major
labor law reforms. First, when the Labor Code was drafted in the early 1990s, the
Vietnamese economy was largely a planned one dominated by state-owned
enterprises. Now that the foreign-invested and private sectors together account for
an estimated 50% of industrial output, the government has found it necessary to adapt
its labor rights regime accordingly. In particular, Hanoi wishes to expand worker
rights in – and perhaps government oversight over – the private sector, where an
estimated 30% of employees are unionized. The proposed revisions to collective
bargaining requirements – outlined below – appear to be a recognition that organizing
at the grass-roots, enterprise level needs to be further encouraged and facilitated.
Second, Vietnam has found it needs to bring many of its labor rules into
compliance with the national treatment obligations of the newly-enacted U.S.-
Vietnam bilateral trade agreement. Third, perhaps motivated by China’s entry into
the World Trade Organization, the government is attempting to attract more foreign
direct investment by simplifying administrative procedures. For instance, the revisions
eliminate the current requirement that foreign invested enterprises hire official
employment services to recruit and hire Vietnamese nationals.
Finally, in preparation for the gradual ending of the welfare role that state-owned
enterprises traditionally have played, the government realizes the need to expand its
social insurance program. Under the revisions, Vietnam would create a new national
unemployment insurance program that would be funded by contributions from the
government, employers, and workers. Currently, employers are expected to provide
unemployment payments to laid-off workers.
The Right of Association. The Labor Code revisions will not change the
requirement that all unions must be recognized by the local office of the VGCL. On
the positive side, unaffiliated (and therefore unofficial) “labor associations” continue
to sprout up in some private sector enterprises and in occupations such as cooks,
porters, and taxi, motorcycle and cyclo drivers. The actual number of these
associations remains unknown, though the State Department puts their number in the
“hundreds.”4 The VGCL and the government appear to be continuing to tolerate
these groups’ activities, perhaps because they are not perceived as a threat. For the
first time, some high-level MoLISA officials are privately acknowledging the
existence of unofficial worker associations.5 However, the associations remain
unprofessionalized in that they appear to be unstaffed, and it is unclear whether or
how they receive any financial support. Furthermore, because they are not officially

4 State Department, Vietnam Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2001, (hereafter
Vietnam Human Rights Report 2001), March 4, 2002.
5 March 2002 conversations with MoLISA officials.

approved unions, these associations are not permitted to register the occasional
agreements they negotiate with employers.6
Collective Bargaining. The State Department’s 2001 human rights report
implies that collective bargaining practices have continued to make inroads in
Vietnam, particularly in the foreign-invested sector. In some regions, the continued
development of a competitive market for skilled labor is helping this process.7
In the past, VGCL officials have called the Labor Code’s dispute resolution
process over-centralized and inflexible. If the new Labor Code revisions are passed,
the procedures for negotiating and registering collective agreements will be
streamlined. Presently, such agreements must be approved by local authorities before
they can take effect. Under the revised guidelines, agreements would take effect
A Bilateral Textile Agreement? During the congressional debate over the
BTA, many Members urged the Bush Administration to negotiate a bilateral textile
agreement soon after the BTA came into effect. Such an agreement would set quotas
for Vietnamese textile exports to the U.S., which are expected to dramatically
increase. The preliminary stage of the negotiations began in late February 2001, with
U.S. Special Negotiator on Textiles David Spooner’s “get acquainted” trip to
Vietnam. The Vietnamese government reportedly has been reluctant to enter into
negotiations, arguing that the two sides should not set quotas until the pattern of
U.S.-Vietnam textile trade under MFN rates becomes apparent. The U.S. has
significant leverage on the textile issue, however. Not only does Vietnam’s textile
industry – which employs approximately 25% of the country’s industrial workforce
– need access to the U.S. market, but also the U.S. could unilaterally impose quotas
on Vietnam at any time because Hanoi is not a member of the WTO.
Some Vietnam-watchers in the United States report that the Vietnamese
government and textile officials are considering urging the country’s textile and
apparel manufacturers to obtain SA8000 certification to become more attractive to
Western importers. Obtaining SA8000 indicates that an enterprise is adhering to basic
labor standards set down by the organization Social Accountability International.
Cooperation with the ILO. Since the ILO moved its Vietnam office from
Bangkok to Hanoi in January 2001, the organization has deepened its involvement in
upgrading the country’s labor rights regime. The ILO currently is implementing seven
national projects and eight regional or sub-regional projects, the most significant of
which is a multi-year program to strengthen implementation of the Labor Code.
MoLISA solicited the organization’s input on a major revision to the labor code,
reforms to the public sector payment plans, and drafts of a new social security act.
The Vietnamese government reportedly is on the verge of ratifying the ILO’s
Convention 138 on minimum age requirements. Additionally, Vietnam is studying the

6 State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report 2001. March 2002 conversations with
State Department and AFL-CIO officials.
7 State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2001.

adoption of ILO conventions 184 (occupational safety and health in agriculture) and

161 (occupational health services).

Cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor. Vietnam and the U.S.
have made considerable progress in implementing the November 2000 Memorandum
of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. Labor Department and MoLISA. Of the
six projects envisioned in the MOU, four (skills training and employment services,
unemployment insurance and pension systems, employment of the disabled, and child
labor) received MoLISA approval in February 2002, one (industrial relations) is
pending approval from the Vietnamese government, and one (HIV/AIDS workplace-
based prevention) is currently in the design stage. In March 2002, MoLISA’s Vice-
Minister traveled to Washington, DC, for official talks with the Labor Department.
Congressional Interest in Vietnam’s Labor Rights
The U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement
This report provides information on and analysis of Vietnam’s labor rights
conditions, a topic that is expected to be raised during Congressional debate over the
United States-Vietnam bilateral
trade agreement (BTA). Under
Vietnam at a Glancethe agreement, which was
signed on July 13, 2000 and
Population: 78.7 million, roughly equal to Germany’srequires congressional approval,
Age Structure: 60% of population younger than 25the United States will restore
Literacy Rate: 94%temporary most-favored nation
Ethnicity: 85%-90% Vietnamese(MFN, also known as normal
Comparative Size: slightly larger than New Mexico
GDP: $143.1 billion (1999) purchasing power parity trade relations [NTR]) status to
GDP Per Capita: $1,850 (1999) purchasing powerVietnam, a step that would
parity significantly reduce U.S. tariffs
Population Below Poverty Line: 37% (1998)on most imports from Vietnam.
Exports: $11.5 billion (1999) The World Bank has estimated
Imports: $11.6 billion (1999) that Vietnam’s exports to the
Arable Land: 17%
U.S. would rise to $1.3 billion –
Source: CIA, The World Factbook, 2000more than double 1999 levels –
in the first year of MFN status,
as U.S. tariff rates on
Vietnamese exports would fall from their non-MFN average of 40% to less than 3%.
In return, Hanoi agreed to undertake a wide range of market-liberalization measures,
including extending MFN treatment to U.S. exports, reducing tariffs on goods, easing
barriers to U.S. services (such as banking and telecommunications), committing to
protect certain intellectual property rights, and providing additional inducements and
protections for inward foreign direct investment.8

8 For more on the U.S.-Vietnam BTA, see CRS Report RL30416, The Vietnam-U.S.

On June 8, 2001, President Bush submitted the U.S.-Vietnam bilateral trade
agreement (BTA). In Congress, the agreement is subject to special expedited
procedures, under which amendments are not permitted and under which Congress
must vote on the measure within 90 session-days. Should Congress approve the
agreement, the President would then be able to extend conditional MFN treatment to
Vietnam through a waiver under the so-called “Jackson-Vanik” provisions of U.S.
trade law. Such MFN status would be conditional because it would require annual
Presidential extensions of the waiver, which Congress could disapprove.
Labor Rights and Trade Agreements
Congressional debate over the BTA is expected to highlight, among other items,
Vietnam’s labor rights situation.9 The BTA does not specifically address workers’
rights. In the late 1990s, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) launched
high profile campaigns charging that American clothing and footwear multinationals
owned or subcontracted with factories in the developing world – including Vietnam
– that tolerate poor health and safety conditions, do not allow the freedom to form or
join independent unions, employ children, and/or pay insufficient wages. In particular,
the campaigns singled out the Vietnamese plants linked to the Nike Corporation,
which in recent years has emerged as one of Vietnam’s top exporters.
These labor rights campaigns, which continue today, have intensified the long-
running debate in Congress and elsewhere over whether promotion of workers’ rights
in other countries should be linked to trade policy.10 Those in favor of making this
linkage argue that the failure of companies in developing countries to adhere to
worker rights standards not only deprives workers of their basic human rights, but
that it also places some American industries at a competitive disadvantage in trade,
suppresses wages in the United States, and shifts employment opportunities to
developing countries. Furthermore, many labor advocates contend that international
trade agreements can encourage countries to relax their domestic labor laws in order
to help their firms become more competitive. During the 1999 World Trade
Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle, which was disrupted by large-scale
protests over issues such as worker rights, President Clinton pledged to place a higher
priority on linking labor rights and trade. A free trade agreement the U.S. signed with

8 (...continued)
Bilateral Trade Agreement, by Mark Manyin, and CRS Report RS20717, Vietnam Trade
Agreement: Approval and Implementing Procedure, Vladimir N. Pregelj.
9 In a sign that some Members of Congress intend to raise the worker rights issue in the
debate over the BTA, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt stated during a January 2001
trip to Vietnam that “I hope that as we work on this agreement in Congress, we can also
advance workers rights...”. Reconciliation, Security, and Economic Progress in Asia (As
Prepared for Delivery), January 17, 2001 speech before the American Chamber of Commerce,
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
10 See CRS Report 96-661E, Worker Rights Provisions and Trade Policy, by Mary Jane
Bolle, July 30, 1996.

Jordan in 2000, for instance, commits the two parties not to weaken their existing
labor standards.11
Opponents of making the linkage argue that free trade helps to empower
workers and promote the rule of law – thereby promoting worker rights – and that
mandating international adherence to labor standards with the threat of trade sanctions
for violating those standards is a form of protectionism that can dampen worldwide
economic growth for all nations. Furthermore, opponents contend that trade
agreements are not the proper place to address labor standards.
Purpose, Scope, and Organization of this Report
This report examines the totality of Vietnam’s labor rights regime, from the right
of association to wage-related issues. It is divided into six main sections. The first
provides a general background of Vietnam’s recent political, economic, and legal
history. The second provides an overview of Vietnam’s labor rights regime, including
a description of the present international regime for protecting labor rights, Vietnam’s
relationship with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the U.S. Labor
Department, and Vietnam’s Labor Code. The following two sections provide a
detailed look at Vietnam’s law and policy in six areas of labor rights: the right of
association/collective bargaining; forced labor, including trafficking in women; child
labor, including trafficking in children; health and safety; wages, hours and welfare
benefits; and discrimination. The penultimate portion of the report provides some
international context by contrasting the Vietnamese and Chinese labor rights regimes.
Finally, the report concludes with a discussion of the impact the labor rights debate
could have on Congressional consideration of the U.S.-Vietnam BTA.
A note about sources: Comprehensive analysis and detailed information about
labor rights in Vietnam are difficult to obtain, particularly when operating under tight
time constraints. News reports about labor activism are scarce, and the Vietnamese
government has only recently begun to compile comprehensive information about
labor conditions across the country. As the ILO has noted, one of the major problems
in Vietnam is a lack of statistical and systematically collected information on labor
relations. Correspondingly, the English information that exists is scarce, tends to be
anecdotal, and tends to focus on conditions at factories owned by or linked to
Western multinationals. In contrast to larger countries like China and India, Vietnam
has slipped under the radar screen as far as country-wide studies of worker rights are
concerned; the most comprehensive, up-to-date reports that are available are in the
State Department’s annual human rights report on Vietnam. Even these documents,
however, rely heavily on anecdotal evidence and incomplete information that often are
compiled by the Vietnamese government. This report will be updated as more
information is obtained.

11 See CRS Report RL30652, The U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, by Joshua Ruebner.

Background: Vietnam’s Development since 1975
Ever since communist North Vietnamese forces defeated U.S.-backed South
Vietnam in 1975, reunified Vietnam has been struggling with how to maintain a
balance between two often contradictory goals – maintaining ideological purity and
promoting economic development. For the first decade after reunification, the
emphasis was on the former. By the mid-1980s, disastrous economic conditions led
the country to adopt a more pragmatic line, enshrined in the doi moi (renovation)
economic reforms of 1986. Under doi moi, the government gave farmers greater
control over what they produce, abandoned central state planning, cut subsidies to
state enterprises, reformed the price system, and opened the country to foreign direct
Economic Developments. For the first decade after the doi moi reforms
were launched, Vietnam became one of the world’s fastest-growing countries,
averaging around 8% annual GDP growth from 1990 to 1997. Agricultural
production doubled, transforming Vietnam from a net food importer into the world’s
second-largest exporter of rice and third-largest producer of coffee. The move away
from a command economy also helped reduce poverty levels from 58% of the
population in 1992 to 37% in 1997.12 A substantial portion of the country’s growth
was driven by foreign investment, primarily from Southeast Asian sources, most of
which the government channeled into the country’s state-owned sector.
The economy has staggered since 1997, however, as real GDP growth fell to
5.8% in 1998, and 4.8% in 1999, though it did rebound to 6.7% in 2000. Foreign
direct investment plummeted to $600 million in 1999, the lowest level since 1992.
Observers have cited Vietnam’s failure to tackle its remaining structural economic
problems — including unprofitable state-owned enterprises, a weak banking sector,
massive red tape, and bureaucratic corruption — as major causes of the country’s
economic slowdown in recent years. The Asian economic crisis that erupted in 1997
only exacerbated these systemic deficiencies. Unemployment has risen, with some
sources claiming that it has more than doubled (to over 2 million) since 1997.
Demographics are compounding the economic difficulties; over half of the population
is under the age of 25, and over 1 million young people are entering the work force
every year.13 With the Party’s legitimacy increasingly derived from providing
economic growth rather than ideology, Vietnam’s leaders are under enormous
pressure to find work for these new entrants.
Rapid growth has transformed Vietnam’s economy, which has come to be
loosely divided into three sectors: the state-owned, the foreign-invested, and the
privately owned, which make up roughly 50%, 30%, and 20% of industrial output,

12 Vietnam Development Report 2000: Attacking Poverty (Draft), Joint Report of the
Vietnam Government-Donor-NGO Working Group, November 15, 1999, p. ii.
13 David O. Dapice, Vietnam’s Economy: Responses to the Asian Crisis, (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard Institute for International Development), September 1999, p.33.

respectively.14 For much of the 1990s, Vietnam’s foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs)
were among the country’s most dynamic.15 Since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the
private sector has also made impressive gains, to the point where privately owned
firms employ nearly a quarter of the workforce. Most of the giant state-owned
enterprises (SOEs), meanwhile, are functionally bankrupt, and require significant
government subsidies and assistance to continue operating. In 1990, 2.5 million
people were employed by state firms. In 2001, this figure is down to 1.6 million.16
Despite its significant economic gains, Vietnam remains an overwhelmingly poor
country; about one-third of Vietnamese children under 5 years of age suffer
malnutrition. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated at $370,17
equivalent to $1,850 when measured on a purchasing power parity basis.
Political Developments. Vietnam’s experiments with political reform have
lagged behind its economic changes. A new constitution promulgated in 1992, for
instance, reaffirmed the central role of the Communist Party in politics and society.
Although personal freedoms have increased dramatically, Hanoi still does not tolerate
signs of organized political dissent. In subtle ways, however, the decision to prioritize
economic development above ideological orthodoxy has led the Party to slowly
loosen its former stranglehold on political power. Recognizing that Party cadres often
were ill-suited to administering its own policy directives, for instance, the Party
created a more powerful and professionalized executive branch in the 1992
constitution. The new constitution also gave more influence to the legislative branch,
the National Assembly, because the Party realized it needed to make the organs of
government more responsive at the grass-roots level.
Rapid economic growth, increased integration with the global economy, and
weak domestic institutions have caused a rise in corruption and a decline in the
Vietnamese Communist Party’s (VCP) authority, alarming many Party hard-liners.
As a result, Vietnamese policy-making in recent years has been virtually paralyzed,
as reformist and conservative elements within the Party have battled to a stalemate
over how to deal with the major economic and demographic forces transforming the
country. The former group calls for a steady roll-out of new reforms and increased
integration into the global economy. The latter fears that economic reform will lead
to the loss of government control over the economic means of production and
financial and monetary levers; they also fear the possible infiltration of heterodox
outside ideas. Vietnam’s consensus-based decision-making style, combined with the

14 Economist Intelligence Unit, Vietnam Country Report, July 2000
15 Vietnam Development Report 2000, p. 58.
16 Far Eastern Economic Review, March 22, 2001. See also Dapice, Vietnam’s Economy,
p. 15-16.
17 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Press Release, February 17, 2001. GDP
figures from the World Bank, World Development Indicators, 1999, and CIA, World
Factbook 2000. Purchasing power parity (PPP) adjusts for different price levels across
countries. Prices are generally lower in Vietnam than in the United States; a dollar generally
will purchase more of the same goods in Vietnam than it would in the U.S. Thus, the PPP
measure of GDP reflects the differing purchasing power between the two countries.

absence of any paramount leader, has meant that these divisions have produced only
piecemeal economic reforms, though implementing the BTA may force more
significant changes. Many observers believe the upcoming 9th Party Congress – to
be held in the spring of 2001 – is unlikely to break the gridlock in the near future.
Vietnam’s Legal Regime. After launching the doi moi economic reforms,
Vietnamese leaders gradually established a new legal regime, both to implement the
reforms and to attract foreign investors.18 The 1992 constitution gave the National
Assembly the authority to pass and amend all laws, which are supplemented by
decrees issued by Vietnam’s executive ministries and agencies. Since 1987, Vietnam
has produced hundreds of laws and decrees dealing with a wide range of subject
areas, including labor law. Many of those laws have been poorly drafted; they have
already been amended several times because of their incompleteness or lack of
enforcement provisions. The weakness sometimes found in Vietnamese laws may be
explained by the fact that since the country’s legal regime was neglected during the
decades of war, Vietnam has a shortage of trained legislators, lawyers, and legal
experts. Also, because Vietnam embarked on a market-oriented economy relatively
recently, it lacks expertise in many areas related to the new system, such as
management, economics, banking, finance, taxation, and labor. As a result, some
laws were drafted by people without experience either in law or in the relevant
specialized subject area. This situation, however, has been improving in recent years.
Overview of Vietnam’s Labor Rights Regime
Vietnam and International Labor Standards
The International Labor Rights “Regime”. The International Labor
Organization (ILO) is the United Nations specialized agency with the mandate to
monitor labor standards and protect workers’ rights. Since its inception in 1919, the
ILO has adopted 183 multilateral labor standards as conventions, or treaties, which
are binding on countries that ratify them. Eight of these conventions – which deal
with freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, prohibition of forced
labor, discrimination in employment, and certain conditions of child labor – are19
considered “core” labor standards. In 1998, the ILO members adopted the
Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Through this resolution,
they agreed that these eight conventions contain principles which all the ILO member
governments should adhere to, whether or not they have ratified them. They also
agreed that all members would be regularly examined for compliance with the core

18 For background, see among others, the World Bank, Vietnam: An Economic Report, Sept.

26, 1994; U.S. Department of State, Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1999,

at; Natalie G. Lichtenstein, A Survey of Viet Nam’s Legal Framework
in Transition (Washington, D.C., The World Bank, Apr. 1994).
19 For brief descriptions of the ILO’s core standards, see the ILO’s information leaflet,
“International Labour Standards,” at
[], accessed February

27, 2001.

conventions or standards. Since the 1970's, some U.S. legislation that provides trade
benefits to various countries – such as the General System of Preferences – has
required compliance with internationally recognized labor standards by U.S. trading
partners, except where U.S. national interests require a waiver. The eight core ILO
labor standards are the standards generally accepted by Congress for U.S. trade
Though the ILO has no enforcement powers, it has a highly regarded supervisory
system to investigate and evaluate compliance with the conventions and a technical
assistance program to help countries bring their legislation and practices into
Since the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) the United States
(including many in Congress) and some of the industrialized countries have pressed
for the inclusion of labor standards in multilateral trade agreements and/or the WTO.
Many developing countries have opposed these efforts.
Vietnam and the ILO. Vietnam has been a member of the International Labor
Organization (ILO) off and on since 1955, rejoining most recently in 1992.
Therefore, efforts to bring Vietnam into compliance with ILO conventions and
planning for technical assistance programs in Vietnam did not get underway until the
early 1990's. Since 1992, Vietnam has ratified 15 conventions, including three of the
ILO’s eight core human rights conventions: No. 100, equal pay for men and women
for work of equal value (ratified by Vietnam in 1997); No. 111, prohibiting
discrimination in employment (1997); and No. 182, prohibiting the worst forms of
child labor (2000). Currently, the Vietnamese are working on a plan to gradually
ratify the remaining core ILO conventions and hope to ratify both forced labor
conventions and the minimum age convention.

Table 1. ILO Conventions Ratified by Vietnam
Core ILO ConventionsRatified by
No. 100, Equal Remuneration Convention (1951)7/10/97
No. 111, Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) (1958 )7/10/97
No. 182, Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention (1999)12/19/00
Other ILO ConventionsRatified by
No. 5, Minimum Age (Industry) Convention, (1919)3/10/94
No. 6, Night Work of Young Persons (Industry) (1919)3/10/94
No. 14, Weekly Rest (Industry) Convention (1921)3/10/94
No. 27, Marking of Weight (Packages Transported by Vessels) (1929)3/10/94
No. 45, Underground Work (Women) (1935) 3/10/94
No. 80, Final Articles Revision (1946)3/10/94
No. 81, Labor Inspection (1947)3/10/94
No. 116, Final Articles Revision (1961)3/10/94
No. 120, Hygiene (Commerce and Offices) (1964)3/10/94
No. 123, Minimum Age (Underground Work) (1965)2/20/95
No. 124, Medical Examination of Young Persons (Underground Work) (1965) 3/10/94
No. 155, Occupational Safety and Health (1981)3/10/94
In the early years, ILO programs in Vietnam focused on employment strategy, human
resources development, enterprise development, industrial relations, social protection,
occupational safety and health, and labor law. As of the year 2000, the ILO’s
program in Vietnam is being shaped (as it is in all countries) to address the four new
ILO strategic objectives: 1) promoting fundamental principles and rights at work; 2)
creating greater opportunities for women and men to secure decent employment and
incomes; 3) enhancing the coverage and effectiveness of social protection; and 4)
strengthening the organizations which support labor and business interests and social
dialogue. The number and size of ILO programs in Vietnam has grown progressively
since 1992. During the 1999/2000 time period, there were 24 ongoing projects, six
of which the ILO defines as promoting fundamental principles and rights at work.20
In January 2001, the ILO moved its Vietnam in-country office from Bangkok to

20 These projects include two that deal with eliminating child labor, a United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP)-funded program that will identify practical measures to
improve working conditions, social security, and promote the employment of women; a
Finnish-funded study to provide gender training needs of government and gender analysis of
working conditions for men and women in largely female workplaces; a school-to-work
transition program that aims to help women find decent employment; and a project geared
toward improving the capacity of public institutions at the local level to extend social security
and credit availability to women in the informal sector. Currently, neither of the latter two
projects are funded.

U.S.-Vietnam Cooperation on Labor Rights
For several years, the United States and Vietnam have maintained a dialogue on
labor issues. This process culminated during President Clinton’s trip to Vietnam in
November 2000, when the U.S. Department of Labor and the Vietnamese Ministry
of Labor signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in which they agreed to
establish a program of cooperation and dialogue on labor-related issues. As part of
this cooperation, the U.S. pledged $3 million in technical assistance to help Vietnam
in the following areas: skills training and employment services; unemployment
insurance and pension systems; employment of the disabled; labor law and industrial
relations; child labor; and HIV/AIDS workplace-based prevention. Funding for the
program may need to be increased; following a March 2001 visit to Hanoi by a
Department of Labor delegation, it became evident that the cost of implementing the
November MOU could exceed $3 million and that the ministry appeared to have the
capacity to absorb additional resources. In September 2000, the United States Trade
and Development Agency approved a $500,000 grant for conducting a feasibility
study for automating Vietnam’s Social Security Agency. The AFL-CIO has sent three
delegations to Vietnam and a fourth is planned for April 2001.
Vietnam’s Labor Code
The backbone of Vietnam’s labor rights regime is the 1994 Labor Code, which
was the country’s first systematic codification of labor standards, definition of labor
relations, and enunciation of the mutual rights and obligations of workers and
employers bound by labor contracts. Drafted with input from the ILO, the Code
appears to be loosely modeled on French labor law in terms of its comprehensiveness.
Its 198 articles and 17 chapters cover labor contracts, collective labor agreements,
working hours and holidays, safety and sanitation, protection of special groups of
workers (such as women, children, older employees, workers with disabilities, foreign
workers), social insurance, and the settlement of labor disputes. The Code also
included provisions on the state’s responsibility to create training and work programs.
Before the Code was promulgated, Vietnam had issued many separate legal
documents covering different aspects of labor law. The Labor Code invalidated only
those regulations that were inconsistent with the code. Thus, some older laws, such
as the 1990 Law on Trade Unions, are still in effect.21
The Labor Code applies to all types of businesses and industrial enterprises,22
foreign and international organizations, and individuals who employ workers.
Provisions of this law also apply to foreign and Vietnamese workers who work in
Vietnam and to Vietnamese citizens who work overseas. Trade apprentices and
domestic servants also are covered by the Code. However, the Code does not extend
to Vietnamese or foreign workers governed by provisions of an international treaty

21 The English translations of most of the laws cited in this article are found in the publication
Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam (Official English Version), compiled by the Ministry of
Planning and Investment and Philips Fox, (Melbourne: Phillis Fox Solicitors, 2000), (hereafter
Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam).
22 Labor Code, article 3, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-122; see also BLD’s
Compilation, p. 9.

where Vietnam is a signatory or participant, state civil servants and officials, the
police and the armed forces, and members of political and social institutions.23
Since the National Assembly approved the Labor Code in June 1994, many
more laws and sub-laws have been issued to amend, supplement or explain the
practical implementation of the Code. Most have been issued by the Ministry of
Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (hereinafter Ministry of Labor or Labor
Ministry), which is the Ministry responsible for implementing the Labor Code and
other related legal documents.24
The Labor Code was passed after a heated debate within the union movement,
the Communist Party, and the government. The dispute spilled into public view to
such an extent that a copy of the draft of the Code was published in Vietnamese
magazines. When the Code was finalized, the unions had scored a number of
victories, including the explicit guarantee of workers’ right to strike; the requirement
that trade unions be established in all enterprises, not just those that are state-owned;
the unionization of foreign-invested enterprises; and the inclusion of provisions
establishing minimum wages, maximum working hours, maternity leave, and overtime
pay. 25
Implementation and enforcement of Vietnam’s labor laws are major problems.
Vietnamese monitoring agencies face a shortage of qualified staff, training
mechanisms, and funds. As a result, most Vietnamese workers and employers are
unaware of the provisions of the Labor Code. For this reason, international sponsors
– including the ILO and the U.S. government – have funded many programs to
enhance Vietnam’s monitoring and enforcement capacities. Implementation has been
further hampered by a large major backlog in drafting decrees and by-laws to support26
the Code. Additionally, there have been allegations that since the 1997 Asian
financial crisis, Vietnamese authorities have relaxed their labor law enforcement in the
textile and apparel sector – where wage cheating and occupational and safety
violations allegedly continue – in response to pressure from multinational textile27

companies and their governments.
23 Labor Code, articles 2-4 , Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-122-23.
24 Hê Thông Van Ban Quy Pham Phá Luât Hiên Hành Vê Lao Dông - Bao Hiêm Xa Hôi
(Compilation of the Current Laws and Regulations on Labor and Social Insurance), Bô Lao
Dông-Thuong Binh và Xa Hôi (Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs
[compiler]), (Hanoi: Nhà Xuât Ban Thông Kê, 1998).
25 Anita Chan and Irene Nkrlund, “Vietnamese and Chinese Labour Regimes: On the Road
to Divergence,” in Transforming Asian Socialism: China and Vietnam Compared, edited by
Anita Chan, Benedict J. Tria Kerkvliet and Jonathan Unger, (Canberra: Allen & Unwin,

1999), p. 218-19.

26 ILO Briefing Note, “Declaration Related ILO Activities in Viet Nam,” 2000.
27 See, for instance, Vietnam Labor Watch, The State of Labor Relations in the Textile and
Shoe Industry in Vietnam (Unpublished Draft), January 5, 2001.

Violations of labor laws and regulations are described in Article 192 of the Labor
Code. Depending on the seriousness of the violation, penalties could include a
warning, a fine, and other punitive measures, such as lost of licences, compulsory
payment of compensation, compulsory closing of business operations, or criminal
prosecution in accordance with the Criminal Code of Vietnam28 The Code also states
that any person who obstructs, bribes, or harms an authorized inspector or labor
officer while he or she is carrying his duty shall be punished by administrative
disciplinary measure or prosecuted for criminal liability. Enterprise owners are legally
responsible for implementing any decision made by a state authority and can be
penalized for a breach of any labor contract or collective agreement.29
General Issues Covered by Vietnam’s Labor Code
Unions (The Right of Association)
The ILO Core Standard. ILO convention 87, dealing with the right of
association, has been ratified by 137 countries, though not by Vietnam (nor by the
United States). The convention establishes the right of all workers and employers to
form and join organizations of their own choosing without prior authorization, and
lays down a series of guarantees for the free functioning of organizations without
interference by the public authorities.30 Vietnam has not ratified the ILO Convention
on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize. However, as an
ILO member it is expected to adopt and enforce ILO right of association and
collective bargaining standards.
Vietnamese Law and Practice. There is no true right of association in
Vietnam. As with mass political and religious organizations, Vietnamese labor unions
are allowed to exist only if they are under Communist Party control. All unions must
belong to the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL), which is an
organ of the Party. Since the early 1990s, however, the VGCL and local unions have
become more assertive, a development tolerated – and in some cases encouraged –
by the government. There are reports, for instance, of many unions exerting more
influence over workplace conditions, mainly on matters relating to wages, health, and
safety – all of which are non-political issues that do not threaten the Party’s control.31
The spread of collective bargaining practices is in the beginning stages, and the
government readily acknowledges that greater enforcement and speedier procedures
are needed. The number and intensity of strikes, which are permitted under the law,
is on the rise. Although the majority of these walkouts have been spontaneous
outbursts and have not followed the bargaining process spelled out in the Labor Code,
in most cases the government retroactively has supported the labor walkouts. Despite
this progress, VGCL officials acknowledge that, in the words of one official, “the

28 Labor Code, article 192, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-185.
29 Labor Code, article 193-94, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-185.
30 ILO information leaflet, “International Labour Standards.”
31 State Department, Vietnam Country Report on Human Rights, 2000.

operations of grass-roots trade unions have proved very weak in negotiating between
employers and employees.”32 Some analysts have pointed out that the absence of the
true right of association in Vietnam has prevented speedier improvements in other
areas of worker rights such as in health and safety issues.
Article 7 (2) of the Labor Code reconfirms workers’ constitutional right to
organize and join unions or to participate in union activities, as long as these activities
are legal and are carried out in accordance with provisions of the 1990 Law on Trade
Unions (LTU).33 This right extends to employees of all commercial and industrial
enterprises, as well as to employees of state agencies and social organizations.34
According to the official sources, 95 percent of public sector workers, 90 percent of
workers in state-owned enterprises, and nearly 70 percent of private sector workers
are unionized. About 500,000 union members work in the private sector, including
foreign-based enterprises. The vast majority of the work force lives in rural areas, is
engaged in small-scale farming, and is not unionized.35
Under the Trade Union Law and other Vietnamese statutes, unions are
considered to be organs of the state and responsible to the leadership of the
Communist Party.36 All unions must be recognized by the local office of the VGCL,
which functions as the country’s umbrella labor organization. By making them
extensions of the VCP, Vietnamese law effectively deputizes labor unions, assigning
them the often contradictory responsibilities of representing the interests of both the
workers and the state.37 But being a state entity also gives the VGCL and its affiliate
unions a seat at the table when the government or the party – at the local, provincial,
and national levels – deliberate on any matters that may affect workers’ rights directly
or indirectly. For instance, the VGCL has the right to propose draft laws and
regulations to the National Assembly or the state agencies on any matters that may38
directly affect the regulation of labor.
Article 153 of the Labor Code requires provincial trade union organizations to
establish unions within six months at virtually all enterprises with more than ten39
employees. Vietnamese law also prohibits employers from applying any form of

32 Vietnam Investment Review, November 27, 2000
33 Law on Trade Unions of 1990, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-1-IV-4.
34 Law on Trade Unions of 1990, article 1(2), Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-1.
35 State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000.
36 Law on Trade Unions of 1990, article 1(1), Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-1.
37 Chan and Nkrlund, “Vietnamese and Chinese Labour Regimes,” p. 204.
38 Law on Trade Unions, article 5(1), Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-3.
39 Labor Code, article 153(1), Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-171. According
to this article, after six months, any new enterprise which operates without a trade union
organization has to accept a provisional trade union organized by an authorized local trade
union federation. The same Article further states that activities of these provisional trade
unions shall be determined by the government and the VGCL (article 153(2)).
Note that according to one study, the requirement that enterprises form unions violates ILO

pressure or measures to interfere with the organization and activities of trade unions.40
In a significant break from past practice, the Code allows the formation of industrial
and professional unions that unite workers across enterprises. In another departure,
these unions are allowed to join and accept donations from international unions of the
same trade. As of 1996, 24 occupational unions had been formed, with over 400,000
members.41 Although they officially operate under the VGCL’s oversight, they have
considerably more independence than enterprise unions, which perhaps explains the
reports that professional and industrial unions have stronger grass-roots and
international ties than the traditional enterprise-based unions. Additionally, enterprise
unions are permitted to join any international union of the same trade.42
Hundreds of unaffiliated ‘labor associations’ have been organized in occupations
such as taxi and motorcycle drivers, cooks, and market porters. Data is sparse about
these associations, most of which appear to have sprouted in Ho Chi Minh City.
According to reports, the VGCL provides moral support for these groups, but offers43
no financial assistance.
Collective Bargaining
The ILO Core Standard. ILO convention 98, which covers collective
bargaining, prohibits discriminating against employees for belonging to a union and
requires governments to set up a system for voluntary collective bargaining to reach
collective agreements between employers and employees. Vietnam reportedly is
considering ratifying this standard.
Vietnamese Law and Practice.
Strikes. Vietnam’s Labor Code allows organized workers the right to strike
under certain conditions.44 Strikes are prohibited at public sector enterprises and at
enterprises deemed vital to national security, such as those in the electrical, oil, gas,
banking, and transportation industries.45 Vietnamese law requires that before they
strike, unions must seek a settlement under the dispute settlement procedures spelled

39 (...continued)
norms. See Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), Report on Internationally
Recognized Worker Rights in Vietnam, (Washington, DC, 1998).
40 Labor Code, article154(3), Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-172.
41 Chan and Nkrlund, “Vietnamese and Chinese Labour Regimes,” p. 224.
42 Chan and Nkrlund, “Vietnamese and Chinese Labour Regimes,” p. 216, 218, 224.
43 State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000; Chan and Nkrlund, “Vietnamese
and Chinese Labour Regimes,” p. 223-24.
44 Labor Code, article 7(4), Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-122.
45 Nghi Dinh sô 51/CP ngày 29/8/1996 cua Chính phu vê viêc giai quyêt yêu câu cua tâp
thê lao dông tai doanh nghiêp không duoc dình công [Decision 51/CP of Aug. 29, 1996
Concerning Resolution of Labor Disputes for Workers Who Work in No-strike Enterprises),
BLD’s Compilation, p. 1632 and 1634.

out in the Labor Code and expanded in a 1996 decree.46 The Code requires that
management and labor first attempt to resolve their dispute through the individual
enterprise’s Labor Reconciliation Council or the local conciliator of the district labor
office in the case of enterprises that do not have a labor reconciliation council. If this
step proves unsuccessful, unions can take the matter to the provincial Labor
Arbitration Council. If the Council’s decision is unsatisfactory to the union or if the
province does not have an arbitration council – a problem in some provinces – the47
union can appeal to the People’s Court or decide to strike. The 1996 decree
prohibits retribution against strikers, and according to the State Department, there
have been no credible reports of such retribution in recent years.48
According to Vietnamese and U.S. government sources, strikes have been on the
rise in recent years, with approximately 450 reported walkouts between 1993 and the
end of 2000. The State Department, using official Vietnamese figures, reports that
over 70 strikes were recorded in 2000.49 Some observers have pointed to the increase
in strikes as signs that unions’ clout is increasing. Others, however, attribute the
increase more to increased business activity than to a growing labor assertiveness.50
The VGCL and the government have acknowledged that strikes are growing in
intensity, though they tend to avoid mentioning strikes at SOEs, instead focusing on
strikes at foreign-invested factories, which according to the State Department have
accounted for well over half the reported strikes.51 Since thousands of workers in
inefficient state-owned enterprises would likely be terminated in a fully market-
oriented economy, these workers may have less incentive to strike.
Most of the strikes appear to occur in the country’s southern provinces, concern
wage-related issues such as recovering unpaid back wages, and appear to be
symbolic, lasting only 1 or 2 days. According to the State Department, most strikes
were spontaneous outbursts that were launched independently of the VGCL and did
not follow the prescribed dispute settlement/arbitration process, and therefore were
technically illegal. The majority of these strikes, however, appear to have been
tolerated, or even unofficially supported, by local and provincial offices of VGCL and
the government. In some instances, the Vietnamese government has prosecuted
employers for abuses leading to strikes.52

46 Pháp lênh ngày 11/4/1996 cua Uy ban Thuong vu Quôc hôi vê thu tuc giai quyêt các
tranh châp lao dông (Decree-Law Regulating Procedures in Labor Disputes, issued by the
Permanent Committee of the National Assembly), BLD’s Compilation, p. 1598.
47 Labor Code, article 168, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-177.
48 Pháp lênh ngày 11/4/1996 (Decree-Law Regulating Procedures in Labor Disputes), article

84, p. 1625; State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000.

49 State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000.
50 Economist Intelligence Unit, ViewsWire, April 21, 2000.
51 Vietnam Investment Review, November 27, 2000; Xinhua October 23, 2000; State
Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000.
52 State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000.

Collective Labor Agreements. Vietnamese law grants unions the right to
bargain collectively on behalf of workers and contains detailed provisions governing
collective agreements, which are defined by law as legal documents between an
organized group of workers and their employers covering the terms and conditions
of employment. In addition to the 11 provisions of Chapter V in the Labor Code,
rules and procedures for collective agreements are spelled out in two government53
decrees, one issued in 1992, the other in 1994. Such agreements are valid if they are
approved by over half of the enterprise’s employees. The laws’ collective bargaining
provisions apply to all enterprises (including foreign businesses and international
organizations) except government agencies, social and political organizations, and
employees who work for enterprises that belong to the military or public security
forces. 54
Despite the law’s provisions, collective bargaining practices appear to have only
begun to make inroads in Vietnam. Anecdotal reports indicate that most collective
agreements are concluded in the south and in private and foreign-invested enterprises.
In a 1998 review of Vietnam’s workers rights situation, the U.S. Overseas Private
Investment Corporation (OPIC) reported that in general, working conditions were55
largely set by individual contracts, not by collective negotiations. Two years later,
the VGCL reported that only 15 percent of non-state enterprises had signed labor56
agreements with their enterprise unions. The OPIC report also noted that most
collective bargaining agreements that were reached merely repeated the Labor Code,57
and thus did not represent true bargaining outcomes. There are some signs that the
situation is improving. The State Department has written that unions increased their
clout in some enterprises by successfully obtaining multi-year contracts and by writing
into contracts prohibitions on 7-day work weeks. In some cases, the increasingly58
competitive market for skilled labor is helping this process.
The Vietnamese government, while stopping short of allowing true freedom of
association, has acknowledged that its current collective bargaining process needs
improvement. VGCL officials have called the dispute resolution process over-
centralized and inflexible, and have proposed revising the Labor Code to make it
speedier. Labor Ministry officials have admitted that many enterprises do not set up
unions and have not abided by arbitrated settlement.59 A major contributor to the

53 The Labor Codes collective bargaining provisions are found in articles 44-54, Foreign
Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-137 to IV-141. The 1992 decree is Decree 18-CP of Dec.

26, 1992 on Collective Labor Agreements, found in Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p.

IV-83. Decree 196-CP of Dec. 31, 1994 on Collective Labor Agreements, found in Foreign
Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-195.
54 Decree 18-CP of December 26, 1992, article 1 (2), p. IV-195.
55 OPIC, Report on Internationally Recognized Worker Rights in Vietnam.
56 Asia Pulse, November 20, 2000.
57 OPIC 1998 report.
58 State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000.
59 VNA, August 11, 2000.

problem is a lack of statistical and systematically collected information on labor
relations issues in general.
Workplace Health and Safety
Vietnamese Law and Practice. Vietnamese law requires all employers –
including public sector offices and the military – to provide workers with protective60
equipment, labor safety guidance, and sanitation facilities in the work place. The
Labor Code also defines the obligations of employers and the rights and duties of
workers in dealing with safety and sanitation, for instance on creating safety training
programs.61 The Code also obligates the government and the VGCL to develop and
implement programs on protection, labor safety, and sanitation, and also contains
provisions on workers’ rights and compensation in case of employment-related62
accidents and diseases.
In practice, however, enforcement is inadequate, in part due to the labor
ministry’s inadequate funding and a shortage of trained enforcement personnel. In

1999, the Labor Ministry conducted a survey that revealed lack of enforcement,

antiquated machinery contributing to workplace hazards and health effects.
Investigators found widespread exposure to hazardous chemicals and other materials
in the workplace, and noted that most workplace abuses go unreported.63 The same
year, the VGCL reported that there were only 300 labor inspectors for the entire
country, half the number it required. The State Department has reported that there
is growing evidence that some grass-roots unions have been effective in improving
working conditions.64
Wages, Working Hours, and Welfare Benefits
Minimum Wages. Under the Labor Code, the Ministry of Labor is responsible65
for the determination and periodical adjustment of minimum wages. The wage rate
varies by region, type of enterprise, and type of work. For instance, a 1999 Decision
of the Ministry of Labor announced that the minimum wage for unskilled Vietnamese
workers in normal working conditions for a foreign invested enterprise located in
urban districts of Hanoi and Hô Chí Minh City (HCMC) was 626,000 Vietnamese
dông (approximately $43 at an exchange rate of 14,558 dong per dollar) per month,
while the minimum monthly wage for the same worker who works in a foreign
enterprise located outside of big cities was to be 556,000 dông (about $38). The

60 Articles 95-108 (p. I.-152 - IV-156 in Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam) of the Labor
Code cover the matters of safety and sanitation in the workplace.
61 Decree 06 of Jan. 20, 1995 on Occupational Safety and Hygiene, Foreign Investment Law
of Vietnam, p. IV-223.
62 Labor Code, article 95, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-152; Labor Code
articles 105-108, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-155 - IV-156.
63 Vietnam Investment Review, May 4, 1999; Reuters, September 13, 1999.
64 State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000.
65 Labor Code, Article 56, p. IV-141.

minimum wage for workers employed in rural areas was 487,000 dông (about $33).66
For other enterprises, the minimum wage was 180,000 dong (about $12) per month,
though many SOE employees earn more than this, in the 300,000 - 500,000 dông67
range, according to one source.
Measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, these minimum wages are
approximately $215 per month ($9.00 per day) for foreign enterprises in
Hanoi/HCMC, $190/month ($8.00/day) for foreign enterprises located outside of big
cities, $165/month ($7.00/day) for rural foreign enterprises, and $60/month
($2.50/day) for SOEs.68 The World Bank definition of extreme poverty is income at
or below $1 per day (PPP basis). Although these wages may be sufficient to avoid
dire poverty conditions, the State Department has described them as “inadequate...
for a decent standard of living.” The Department has also noted that many families
have more than one wage earner, and that many workers receive bonuses or work in
more than one job.
A recent ILO study found that most enterprises are abiding by the minimum
wage rules, with the exception of smaller private sector enterprises.69 If true, this
would mark a significant change from the past, when only foreign-invested enterprises
and major SOEs abided by the minimum wage rules.
Working Hours. Vietnam’s labor laws contain highly detailed rules regulating
working hours and vacation time. Under the Labor Code and a 1994 decree, regular
working hours are not to exceed eight hours per day and 48 hours per week.70
Overtime pay is required for additional work hours.71 In a bid to reduce
unemployment, the government in 1999 reduced the workweek for public sector,
Communist Party and SOE employees from 48 to 40 hours, and declared that these
workers receive at least one day off per week. The Labor Code also has provisions
on break time during the day and the week and on vacation and holidays.72 By law,
Vietnamese workers who work a full 12 months a year must have eight full days paid
leave for five national holidays a year (including three days for the Lunar calendar
New Year) and 12 days of annual leave.73 In addition to fully paid annual leave,
workers may receive a fully paid leave of absence for personal reasons. An employee

66 Decision 708/1999/QD/BLD/TBXH, article 1, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p.
67 Decree 10/2000/ND/CP of March 2000, on Minimum Wage in Enterprises, Foreign
Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-805; March 21, 2001 e-mail correspondence with Anita
68 The PPP figures are estimated using a conversion factor of 5 (1999 per capita GDP ÷1999
per capita GDP PPP = 5) and an assumption of 6 work days per week.
69 State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000.
70 Decree 10 of March 1, 1999, on Working Hours and Rest Breaks, Foreign Investment Law
of Vietnam, p. IV-825.
71 Labor Code, article 61(a), Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. I.-143.
72 Labor Code, arts. 71-77, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-145 to IV-147.
73 Labor Code, article 73, 74(a), Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-146

may, for instance, get three days of leave for his/her own wedding, one day for his/her
child’s wedding; and three days for the death of a spouse, a child, or a parent.74
According to the State Department’s Human Rights report, “it is uncertain” how
well the Government enforces these provisions.
Welfare Benefits. Vietnam created its Social Security Agency in 1995.
Before then, three agencies — the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Labor, and the
VGCL — jointly administered the country’s social security program, including its
social insurance funds. Under Vietnamese labor law there are two types of social
insurance funds: 1) a mandatory, employer-contribution social insurance program
that applies to all organizations employing at least ten workers and covers medical
problems, pregnancy, work-related accidents and diseases, retirement, and life
insurance; and 2) a voluntary employee-contribution insurance program that is
applied in cases where a worker is not protected by a collective agreement, such as
in companies with less than 10 employees or in short-term contract work. In these
cases, the employer must pay the independent worker an extra 17% over the regular
or agreed salary in order for the latter to pay for his own social insurance.75
Contributions to social insurance fund are made by: 1) the employers (15% of the
total wage fund); 2) the employees (5% of the salary); 3) the government (80%) to
insure the implementation of the social insurance system for the workers; and 4) other
sources. 76
In recent years, the VGCL has pushed the government to beef up Vietnam’s
unemployment insurance program. In 1998, for instance, it called on the government
to provide at least $500 million to support the estimated 600,000 SOE employees
who were to lose jobs due to the country’s restructuring program.77 In addition to the
fear of unemployment, fewer SOE workers are receiving subsidized housing, which
traditionally had been provided by their employer.
Special Issues in Vietnamese Labor Law
Forced Labor
ILO Core Standards. The ILO has two core standards dealing with forced
labor. Hanoi has ratified neither, though it has asked the ILO for assistance in
ratifying both, and to this end the ILO plans to send an advisory mission to Hanoi in
early 2001. Convention 29 requires nearly all forms of forced and compulsory labor
be phased out within 5 years after ratification. In the interim, certain rules and
conditions are placed on the use of forced labor, which is to be used “for public
purposes only and as an exceptional measure.” Convention 105 prohibits the use of

74 Labor Code, article 78, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-148.
75 Labor Code, article 141(1) and 142(2), Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-167.
76 Labor Code, article 149, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-168.
77 Vietnam Investment Review, February 5, 2001.

any form of forced or compulsory labor as a means of political coercion or education,
punishment for the expression of political or ideological views, or for workforce
mobilization. 78
Vietnamese Law and Practice. Article 5 (2) of the Labor Code stipulates
that ill-treatment of workers and all forms of forced labor are prohibited by law.79
Although the Vietnamese government denies the use of prison labor without
compensation, the State Department’s 2000 report on Vietnam’s human rights
practices notes that prisoners routinely are required to produce food and other goods
used in prisons for little or no pay.80
In late 1999, the government issued a decree requiring 10 days unpaid
community service annually for all men under 45 and all women under 35.81
According to foreign press reports, the legislation was used to press Vietnamese
“volunteers” to work on the 1700 km Ho Chi Minh Highway, which roughly follows
the route of the Ho Chi Minh Trail used during the Vietnam War. Following criticism
of this policy, the Ministry of Labor in late September 2000 issued Circular 22,
decreeing that all conscripts or volunteers working on the project must be paid at least
15,000 dong/day – roughly equivalent to a dollar a day.82 Hanoi has rejected claims
that the government conscripted labor at any time on the Ho Chi Minh trail highway
project. The State Department points out that Vietnam has a long tradition of
communal labor under which persons living along flood-prone levees voluntarily help
to build or repair the flood control system.83
Trafficking in Women and Children. Trafficking in women and children
has become a growing problem in Vietnam. Thousands of women and children
reportedly have been forced into prostitution, either in Vietnam itself or in
neighboring countries, particularly in China and Cambodia. Often, organized
trafficking rings kidnap women, lure them with the promise of high-paying jobs, or
addict them to heroin and force them to work as prostitutes to earn money for drugs.
The state-run media has publicized the problem, Hanoi is cooperating with
international organizations, NGOs, and foreign countries, and the government is
encouraging grass-roots organizations, such as the Vietnam Women’s Union and
Youth Union’s programs, to help combat the buying and selling of women and

78 ILO Information Leaflet, “International Labour Standards.”
79 Note that Vietnam’s Criminal Code does not include forced labor as a method of
punishment. It also does not contain any provisions concerning the crime of forcing someone
to work.
80 Vietnam Human Rights Report 2000. In earlier years, the State Department’s report had
observed that there were no reports of uncompensated prison labor.
81 The ordinance permits citizens to excuse themselves from this obligation by finding a
substitute or paying a fee. See State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000.
82 Agence France Press, October 16, 2000.
83 State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000.

Vietnam’s Criminal Code provides penalties for trafficking in women and
children. One-time, small-time offenders face prison terms of 1 to 7 years. Harsher
imprisonment terms of 5 to 20 years are applied to repeat offenders, cases involving
organized trafficking rings, and cases involving the shipment of women and/or
children to foreign countries.84 The crime of forcing or enticing a woman into
prostitution is subject to a term of imprisonment ranging from 6 months to 5 years.
If the offense results in grave consequences or if it is a repeat offense, the sentence85
for the offender will be a term of imprisonment of 3 to 10 years. Prostitution is also
illegal in Vietnam, though it is widely tolerated.
In 2000 and 2001, revelations surfaced of sweatshop working conditions for
Vietnamese women at a factory on American Samoa, a U.S. island territory in the
South Pacific. Reportedly, the women were unpaid for months and forced to live and
work in unhealthy, almost prison-like conditions. The Korean-owned plant, which
reportedly made apparel for major American retailers, was closed in January 2000
following a U.S. Labor Department investigation. The 252 Vietnamese employees,
primarily women, had been recruited by semi-private Vietnamese firms and reportedly
paid thousands of dollars for the chance to work in Samoa. Some rights groups and
congressional investigators are looking into whether the factory and the Vietnamese
firms kept the workers in debt bondage and/or violated U.S. laws barring trafficking
in humans.86 Since the early 1980s, Vietnam has exported labor to bring home hard
currency. According to one in-depth study of the Samoan case, although Vietnam’s
“labor export” recruitment companies have official links with various government87
agencies, in reality they “operate without much audit & supervision from Hanoi.”
Over 30,000 workers were exported in 2000, generating over $1 billion that was
repatriated to Vietnam. Before the scale of the Samoan incident was revealed,
Vietnam had announced its desire to vastly expand its labor export program, in part88
by exporting workers to the U.S. for the first time.
Child Labor
ILO Core Standards. The ILO has two core conventions dealing with child
labor. The Minimum Age Convention, No. 138, aims at the abolition of child labor,
stipulating that the minimum age for admission to employment shall not be less than
the age of completion of compulsory schooling. Convention 182, the Worst Forms
of Child Labor Convention, prohibits and requires immediate action to eliminate:
child slavery and similar practices; the use of children in prostitution, pornography

84 Penal Code of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Selection of Fundamental Laws and
Regulations of Vietnam (Hanoi, Thê Gioi Publishers, 1995), article 115, p. 122.
85 Penal Code of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, article 202, p. 156.
86 San Jose Mercury News, March 9, 2001; New York Times, February 6, 2001.
87 Vietnam Labor Watch, Report on the Working Conditions of Vietnamese Workers in
American Samoa, February 6, 2001, available at [].
88 San Jose Mercury News, March 9, 2001; New York Times, February 6, 2001.

and the drug trade; and work that harms the health, safety or morals of children.89
In December 2000, Vietnam ratified Convention 182 and reportedly is working to
ratify Convention 138 in 2001.
Vietnamese Law and Practice. The Labor Code sets Vietnam’s minimum
employment age at 18.90 Children aged 15-18, so-called “junior workers,” may be
hired so long as they obtain parental permission. Employers must apply a different
set of standards in wages, training, and working hours for junior workers, who cannot
work more than 7 hours a day and 42 hours a week. The law also does not permit
junior workers to perform heavy labor or work in a hazardous environment.91 In urban
areas, where many children work informally in family businesses, many schools run
two sessions to enable children to attend classes.92
Enforcement of the law is weak, however, as government monitoring and
enforcement resources are stretched. A recent Ministry of Labor survey, which was
widely publicized in Vietnam, found that about 40,000 children between the ages of

8 and 14 years of age worked part-time or full-time in violation of the Labor Law.

There are reports of thousands of children working in exploitative labor conditions,
for instance in gold mines and as domestic servants.93 Generally, poverty appears to
be the driving force behind the child labor problem; Vietnamese culture stresses
educational achievement, so all but the poorest families generally send their children
to school. However, there are many reports of impoverished families “contracting”
their children out. As mentioned above, child prostitution has become a major
problem, as organized trafficking rings ferry children to Cambodia and China. In rural
areas, where compulsory education laws often are not enforced effectively, many
children work on family farms.94 Vietnam is cooperating with ILO child-labor
prevention programs, one of which will create a child labor unit in the government,
survey the size of the child labor problem, and create a national plan of action.
ILO Core Conventions. In October 1997, Vietnam ratified the two ILO core
standards covering discrimination in the workplace. The Equal Remuneration
Convention, No. 100, calls for equal pay and benefits for men and women for work
of equal value. The Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, No.

111, calls for a national policy to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of race,

89 ILO Information Leaflet, “International Labour Standards.”
90 Labor Code, article 6, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-123.
91 Labor Code, article 121, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-160.
92 State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000.
93 State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000.
94 State Department, Vietnam Human Rights Report, 2000

color, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, and to
promote equality of opportunity and treatment.95
Vietnamese Law and Practice. Following the Constitutional principle of
“equality for all citizens,” the Labor Code grants all people the right to work, choose
their profession, learn a trade, and improve their skills without discrimination based
on sex, ethnic origin, social class, or religious belief.96 The Code devotes an entire
chapter to the treatment of female workers. By law, employers must observe the
principle of equality between gender when they hire, pay, and promote female
employees.97 In fact, the state applies some preferential policies in order to encourage
the hiring of female workers by giving tax reductions to enterprises employing many
female workers.98 The Labor Code also forbids employers to fire or to unilaterally
end a labor contract for reasons of marriage, pregnancy, or taking maternity leave.
Women make up approximately 52% of Vietnam’s workforce, and about 40% of
Vietnamese wage-earners are women.99 Despite these provisions, the ILO has noted
that “in reality women still tend to have unequal access to employment and to
productive resources such as credit and land and lack voice in decision-making and
representation.”100 The ILO has two on-going projects to promote greater gender
equality in Vietnam.
Vietnam and China’s Labor Rights Regimes:
A Comparison
China’s Labor Regime
The 1990s continued a trend in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), begun in
the 1980s, of breaking the “iron rice bowl” system of allocated, permanent
employment and a variety of free social services, and replacing it with a contractual
labor system. A major milestone was the enactment of a comprehensive Labor Law,
which unifies in one code the various regulatory schemes governing all forms of
businesses, domestic and foreign, State organs, institutions, and public
organizations.101 As in the case of the Labor Code of Vietnam, the Chinese Labor

95 ILO Information Leaflet, “International Labour Standards.”
96 Labor Code, article 5 (1), p. IV-122.
97 Labor Code, article 111, Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-157.
98 Labor Code, article 110 (2), Foreign Investment Law of Vietnam, p. IV-157.
99 Vietnam Development Report 2000: Attacking Poverty (Draft), Joint Report of the
Vietnam Government-Donor-NGO Working Group, November 15, 1999, p. 74.
100 ILO Briefing Note, “Declaration Related ILO Activities in Viet Nam,” 2000.
101 Adopted on July 5, 1994, effective January 1, 1995, in 107 articles. For the Chinese text,
see 5 Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Quanguo Renmin Daibiao Dahui Changwu Weiyuanhui
Gongbao (Gazette of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Vol. 5),
August. 15, 1994, p. 3-15. For an English translation, see The Laws of the People’s Republic

Law does not displace earlier regulations; those that do not conflict with the Labor
Law remain in effect. The government agency in charge of labor affairs in China is
the Ministry of Labor and Social Security under the State Council. China is a member
of the International Labor Organization and has ratified 20 ILO conventions, including
two of the eight core conventions, on equal remuneration and minimum age (on Nov.

2, 1990, and Apr. 28, 1999, respectively).102

Market-oriented reforms, foreign investment, and international trade have
contributed to high rates of economic growth and significant reductions in poverty.103
However, economic reforms have given rise to an urban unemployment rate of an
estimated 8 to 13 percent and frequent labor demonstrations in older industrial areas
where many state-owned enterprises are going bankrupt. Rural under-employment
and an urban-rural income gap of over 2 to 1 has compelled an estimated 120-150
million rural migrants to flock to eastern cities in search of work. This pool of low-
wage labor has been vulnerable to exploitation and labor abuses, particularly in
Korean, Taiwanese, and Hong Kong-owned factories that produce goods for export
or that subcontract to American companies.
The following comparison between the Vietnamese and Chinese labor rights will
focus on the right of association, collective bargaining, and the special issues of
health and safety, wages and hours, forced labor, and child labor.
China and the ILO. China has been a member of the International Labor
Organization since 1919. Until 1971, the China seat was contested by the Republic
of China (Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China (founded in 1949). Though
the seat was given to the People’s Republic of China in 1971, the government did not
participate or pay its dues to the ILO until 1983. China has ratified 17 conventions
since 1919, including two of the eight core conventions. China ratified three additional
conventions and then withdrew from them because they became redundant when No.
138 on minimum age was ratified. The presence of an ILO office in Beijing indicates
that cooperation between China and the ILO is growing in all areas, including core
standards, occupational safety and health, employment, and social security. Much of
this cooperation is requested by the Chinese government. There are four pending
freedom of association complaints against China at the ILO, including one concerning
Hong Kong.

101 (...continued)
of China (1994), Vol. 6, (Beijing: Science Press, 1996), p. 53-72.
102 On February 28, 2001, China ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social,
and Cultural Rights, with the caveat that it had reservations with Item 1(a) of Article Eight,
which addresses the right to establish free trade unions. China’s Standing Committee stated
that implementation of the article must be in line with China’s laws, under which only the
government-backed ACFTU is recognized as a national workers’ body. See Agence France
Presse, Hong Kong, March 1, 2001, via FBIS, March 1, 2001.
103 In the past 20 years of economic reforms, 200 million Chinese have reportedly been lifted
out of poverty. See CRS Issue Brief IB98014, China’s Economic Conditions, by Wayne M.

Table 2. ILO Conventions Ratified by China
Core ILO ConventionsRatified by
No. 100, Equal Remuneration (1951)11/2/90
No. 138, Minimum Age (1973)4/28/99
Other ILO ConventionsRatified by
No. 11, Right of Association (Agriculture) (1921)4/27/34
No. 14, Weekly Rest (Industry) (1921)5/17/34
No. 16, Medical Examination of Young People (Sea) (1021)12/2/36
No. 19, Equality of Treatment (Accident Compensation) (1925)4/27/34
No. 22, Seamen’s Articles of Agreement (1926)12/2/36
No. 23, Repatriation of Seamen (1926)12/2/36
No. 26, Minimum Wage-Fixing Machinery (1928)5/5/30
No. 27, Marking of Weight (Packages Transported by Vessels) (1929)6/24/31
No. 32, Protection against Accidents (Dockers) (Revised) (1932)11/30/35
No. 45, Underground Work (Women) (1935)12/2/36
No. 80, Final Articles Revision (1946)8/4/47
No. 144, Tripartite Consultation (International Labor Standards) (1976)11/2/90
No. 159, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled2/2/88
Persons)(1983) 1/11/95
No. 170, Chemicals (1990)12/17/97
No. 122, Employment Policy (1964)
As with all other countries, ILO technical assistance programs in China focus on
four areas: increasing compliance with the 8 core labor standards, providing decent
employment for men and women, social protection, and social dialogue. Since 1995,
the ILO has sponsored programs to promote ratification and implementation of ILO
conventions, particularly the core conventions culminating in the ratification of No.
138 on minimum age and several other conventions. Current activities are focused
on ratification of core convention 111 on discrimination and other conventions on
labor administration, maritime convention and occupational safety and health. Unlike
the rest of the region, China has not yet shown interest in the ILO International
Program for the Elimination of Child Labor but is participating in a region wide104
program on trafficking in women and children.
The Right of Association and Collective Bargaining
In general, Vietnam’s unions appear to have considerably more autonomy and
influence than their Chinese counterparts. A key reason for this difference is the
greater leeway allowed by the Vietnamese government. As one report comparing the
two regimes states, “the Vietnamese government has been more willing to grant trade

104 International Labor Organization, “Update on ILO in China,” Compiled for Washington
Branch Office, March 2001.

unions some space to defend workers’ interests, whereas the Chinese government has
chosen to keep the unions under a tight rein.”105
As in Vietnam, China’s trade unions are essentially organs of the State and are
subject to communist party control. Article 35 of the PRC Constitution guarantees
freedom of association, but that right is limited given that unions must belong to the
Party-affiliated All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). The Labor Law
and the Trade Union Law provide in general for the right to organize and participate
in trade unions (article 7, paragraph 1 and article 3, respectively) but, unlike the case
in Vietnam, that right is not protected under the Constitution, and independent labor106
unions are illegal in China. Chinese leaders, who preside over a larger and older
industrial sector than the Vietnamese and whose economy is undergoing extensive
structural changes, deeply fear the rise of a national labor movement similar to
Poland’s Solidarity. The Communist Party became especially vigilant after the spring
of 1989, when workers in Beijing and other cities formed autonomous labor unions
and joined students who were demanding political reform. After the military
crackdown in June 1989 (the Tiananmen Square incident), the Party purged the
ACFTU chairman and several other union officials for allowing their members to join
independent labor activists and students demonstrating for democracy. Many labor
activists were arrested and sentenced to prison terms of up to 15 years.107
Unlike Vietnam’s Labor Code, neither the Trade Union Law nor the Labor Law
of China explicitly requires the establishment of trade unions. The Trade Union Law
only states that a trade union may be set up with a minimum of 25 members (article
12, paragraph 1). The ACFTU claims 103 million members, of a total workforce of
approximately 740 million, over 500 million of whom are rural workers. Over 90%
of the ACFTU’s reported members are employed in SOEs. Most workers in China’s
private sector – which the government says employs about 20 million people – have
no union representation, a situation the government is attempting to rectify “as a way
of maintaining state control over labor relations.”108

105 Chan and Nkrlund, “Vietnamese and Chinese Labour Regimes,” p. 204.
106 The Labor Law and the Trade Union Law were adopted on April 3, 1992, and promulgated
and effective on the same date. For the Chinese text, see Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo
Fagui Huibian (1992, 1-12), (Beijing: China Legal System Press), 1993, p. 17-26. For an
English translation, see The Laws of the People’s Republic of China (1990-1992), Vol. 4,
(Beijing: Science Press), 1993, p. 361-71. Note that the PRC government has reportedly
tolerated some semi-autonomous “village labor unions” formed by rural migrant laborers, as
long as their activities are consistent with government policies.
107 See George Black and Robin Munro, Black Hands of Beijing: Lives of Defiance in
China’s Democracy Movement, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1993.
108 State Department, China Country Report on Human Rights Practices, (hereafter China
Human Rights Report) 2000, available at []. See also
“PRC Media Emphasize Need To Set Up Local Unions, Revise Labor Laws,” FBIS Report,
May 9, 2000. Local regulations on trade unions in private or foreign enterprises also may
stipulate that the unions should be set up within one year after the enterprise begins
operations. See, for instance, “Zhejiang Issues Rules To Encourage, Establish Trade Unions
in Private Firms,” Xinhua, January 1, 2001, via FBIS, January 1, 2001; “Gansu Regulations

Although they share similar socialist roots, the roles of the ACFTU and the
VGCL have begun to diverge. Whereas the VGCL has begun to evolve along the
Western model of an advocate for workers’ rights, for instance, the majority of
ACFTU-affiliated unions appear to function primarily as social organizations and as
resources for unemployed workers laid off due to SOE restructuring.109 Vietnamese
industrial unions, which some argue are growing in importance, appear to have
considerably more autonomy – in joining international trade union organizations, for
instance – than their Chinese counterparts, which are far less important than enterprise
unions. Likewise, China’s enterprise unions have less autonomy from the Party than
in Vietnam; although they are officially encouraged to protect workers’ rights and to
“supervise management,” enterprise union efforts are often hampered by Communist
Party authority in the factory and local union federations, which in turn are under the
effective control of the local Party affiliate.110
Unlike Vietnam, the right to strike in China is in a state of legal limbo: there is
no provision in the Chinese Labor Law granting the right to strike, nor is there any
constitutional guarantee of that right. Nonetheless, the PRC government has
acknowledged that many spontaneous strikes and demonstrations do occur. The
number of officially recorded strikes soared to more than 120,000 in 1999 – a 14-fold111
increase in five years. Some experts have estimated that labor protests – mostly
against lost jobs and benefits, withheld wages and pensions, and corrupt management
practices – occur almost weekly in “rust belt areas” where many older, uncompetitive,
state-owned enterprises dominate the economy. Reported instances of relatively
spontaneous and isolated strikes and demonstrations have not indicated that workers
were arrested for their activities. However, in many private enterprises and foreign-
owned companies using migrant labor, workers who strike reportedly are fired.
Beijing has not tolerated acts involving long-term, autonomous labor
organization, combined activities of workers from different enterprises, unapproved
labor publications, and other “anti-government” acts.112 Since the late 1980s,
numerous attempts have been made to establish independent unions. The government
has persistently arrested or detained most activists involved in these efforts. One
exception appears to be the government’s treatment of migrant workers, who in 1999
began to form semiautonomous “village labor unions” on the outskirts of some cities
to represent their interests in private sector industries. Though they are not part of

108 (...continued)
on Unions in Foreign Invested Enterprises,” Gansu Ribao, June 8, 1996, via FBIS June 8,


109 Chan and Nkrlund, “Vietnamese and Chinese Labour Regimes,” p. 204-05; State
Department, China Human Rights Report, 2000.
110 Xinhua News Agency, December 14, 2000, transcribed by BBC Monitoring, December

19, 2000.

111 Damien McElroy, “China Struggles to Keep Lid on Labor Unrest,” The Sunday
Telegraph, May 7, 2000.
112 The China Labour Bulletin (Hong Kong, October 2000) currently monitors the condition
of 35 imprisoned labor leaders, who it claims represent only a “tiny minority of labor activists
and trade unionist in prisons and labor camps in China.”

the ACFTU, these loosely organized groups have been tolerated by local
governments. The State Department reports that by some accounts these village
unions are effective, relatively independent, and cooperative with city government.113
In contrast to the Vietnamese Labor Code’s detailed provisions on collective
bargaining, the Chinese Labor Law contains only three brief articles on this topic.114
Under the Trade Union Law, workers may enter into collective contracts on
remuneration, work hours, rest days and holidays, safety and hygiene, insurance,
welfare, and other matters (article 33). In October 2000, the Ministry of Labor and
Social Security issued specific measures on collective wage negotiations.115 Dispute
settlement procedures are similar to those of Vietnam – mediation, arbitration, and
filing of a lawsuit in a People’s Court (Labor Law, articles 77-83) – but as one scholar
points out, “collective contracts are relatively meaningless without the right to take
collective action.”116 As in Vietnam, most Chinese workers enter into individual
contracts with their employers. Chinese laborers’ bargaining powers are limited by
unemployment pressures, inadequate enforcement of existing laws, and Chinese
government policies that forbid the formation of autonomous labor unions.
Health and Safety
China’s Labor Law states that employers must implement State standards for
occupational health and safety, educate laborers about occupational health and safety,
and prevent accidents in the work process and lessen occupational hazards (article
52). Other provisions require employers to meet standards for health and safety
facilities, to provide regular health exams for laborers engaged in hazardous work,
and to give workers training for specialized operations (articles 53-55). For their
part, laborers must abide by rules on safe operations. If compelled to operate under
unsafe conditions, they may refuse to do the work, and report or bring charges
against the endangering acts (article 56). By law, trade unions are to play a role in
monitoring health and safety conditions (articles 23, 24). Chinese labor regulations
contain provisions on workers’ compensation for work-related accidents and
diseases, and a national law on occupational diseases is expected to be enacted by the
end of 2001.117 However, these regulations are poorly enforced, and the Chinese
government has publicized the problem and worked with the ILO to train health and118
safety officers and to educate local officials. According to official statistics, the
number of industrial accidents has declined in recent years. In 1999, several U.S.

113 State Department, China Human Rights Report, 2000.
114 Chan and Nkrlund, “Vietnamese and Chinese Labour Regimes,” p. 220.
115 “Text of Interim Measures for Conducting Collective Wage Negotiations,” Xinhua, Nov.
26, 2000, via FBIS, November 26, 2000. The Measures were adopted on Oct. 10, 2000, and
promulgated for implementation on Nov. 8, 2000.
116 Hilary K. Josephs, “Labor Law in a ‘Socialist Market Economy’: The Case of China,”

33 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, 1995, p. 571.

117 “Draft Stresses Prevention of Occupational Diseases,” China Daily, Internet Version,
February 23, 2001, via FBIS, February 23, 2001.
118 State Department, China Human Rights Report, 2000.

corporations, many of whom subcontract assembly work to Hong Kong, Taiwanese,
and South Korean companies, jointly developed a “Code of Conduct” by which to
promote international labor standards in these factories. The results have reportedly119
been mixed.
Wages and Hours
The Labor Law provides for a system of guaranteed minimum wages (article 48).
Beijing does not set a uniform minimum wage, but lets local governments determine
their own minimum wage standards. China’s per capita income is about two to four
times that of Vietnam’s ($800 in nominal terms; $4,000 in purchasing power parity
terms). The State Department reports that these wages are “usually sufficient to
provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family.”120 In some larger cities,
the minimum wage for factory workers is about $38 per month, roughly the same as
minimum wage levels in Vietnam. However, according to one study, average wages
for workers in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen range from $175 to $300
per month.121 According to another study by a U.S.-China trade group, wages at U.S.
factories in China were, on average, more than twice as high as wages for comparable122
jobs at Chinese state-owned enterprises.
China’s Labor Law has rules on work hours and vacation time, but they are not
as detailed as those in the Vietnamese Labor Code. In 1995, China reduced the
standard workweek from 44 hours to 40 hours – excluding overtime – eight fewer
hours than Vietnam’s general standard.123 The Labor Law mandates a 24-hour rest
period weekly for staff and workers (article 38), apparently a broader provision than
that in the Vietnamese Labor Code. As in Vietnam, overtime pay is required for
extended work hours, which generally are not to exceed one hour per day and which
are to be agreed upon by the employer in consultation with the trade union and
laborers (article 41). A system of paid annual vacation time is also practiced in China
with specific measures formulated by the State Council (article 45). Holidays are not

119 Companies that endorsed this Code include Levi Strauss, Mattel, and Reebok. While these
companies have reportedly stopped subcontracting to factories that violated the Code, many
local officials have often continued to ignore health and safety violations in order to attract
foreign investment.
120 State Department, China Human Rights Report, 2000.
121 Economist Intelligence Unit, October 13, 2000; Business Coalition for U.S.-China Trade;
American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing.
122 The Business Coalition for U.S.-China Trade.
123 See “Decision of the State Council on Amending the Provisions of the State Council
Concerning Work Hours for Workers and Staff Members,” 7 Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo
Guowuyuan Gongbao (Gazette of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China,
Volume 7), April 6, 1995, p. 222-223. The full text of the revised Provisions, as well as
measures for their implementation, also appear in that issue of the Gazette.

covered under the law, but under separate measures; in spring 2000, the number of
paid holidays was increased from 7 to 10 days a year.124
Forced Labor
The Chinese Labor Law stipulates criminal responsibility for persons who
compel workers to operate against established rules and under unsafe conditions if
major accidents and serious consequences result (article 93). Like the Vietnamese
Labor Code, which prohibits ill treatment of workers, the PRC law prohibits
employers from using violence, intimidation, or illegal restriction of personal freedom
to compel laborers to work. Such acts are punishable by means of detention, a fine,
or a warning; if they constitute a crime, criminal responsibility will be pursued (article

96, item 1).

Unlike Vietnam, the PRC uses forced labor as a method of punishment for
criminal and for socially disruptive actions. The former is referred to as “reform
through labor;”the latter is termed “labor reeducation.” Labor reeducation in
particular has been harshly criticized by Western governments, human rights125
organizations, and the United Nations. In 1992 and 1994, the United States and
China signed memoranda of understanding on prohibiting export trade in prison labor
products, but their implementation remains problematic; there have been many reports
documenting the export of products in which some stages of assembly were126
subcontracted to prisoners, who received no payment.
Generally speaking, Chinese law prescribes harsher punishments than those in
Vietnamese law for crimes of trafficking in women and children. The PRC Criminal
Law prescribes punishments for stealing babies or infants for the purpose of extorting
money or property (not less than 10 years imprisonment plus fine or confiscation of
property); for abducting and trafficking in women or children (between 5 and 10 years
of imprisonment, plus fine or confiscation of property); and for buying an abducted127
woman or child (not more than three years, with exceptions). In especially serious
cases, the first two types of crimes may incur the death penalty and confiscation of
property. The Law of the PRC on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women

124 “PRC Ministry Says Less Hours, More Pay for Workers,” Xinhua, April 3, 2000, via
FBIS April 3, 2000.
125 “China To Issue Law To Regulate Reform Through Labor System,” Hong Kong Agence
France Presse, February 4, 2001, via FBIS, February 4, 2001. The article refers to the
planned issuance this year of a law on reeducation through labor.
126 Noted in United States Department of State, Treaties in Force, U.S. Government Printing
Office: Washington, D.C., June 2000, p. 55; regarding implementation, see State Department,
China Human Rights Report, 2000.
127 Adopted on July 1, 1979; extensively revised on Mar. 14, 1997, effective Oct. 1, 1997.
For Chinese and English texts of the Law, see Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing
Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China, Criminal
Law of the People’s Republic of China, (Beijing: China Procuratorial Press, 1997). The
Criminal Law was further amended on Dec. 25, 1999; most of these changes focus on
financial crime.

also prohibits trafficking in women (article 36, paragraph 1). It further provides that
the relevant government organs must take timely measures to rescue the victims, that
the women should not be discriminated against if they return to their former place of
residence, and that local government organs will settle any problems that may
subsequently arise (article 36, paragraph 2).128
Child Labor
The Labor Law prohibits employers from recruiting minors under the age of 16
(article 15, paragraph 1), two years lower than the minimum employment age in
Vietnam. Juvenile workers – workers between the ages of 16 and 18 – are prohibited
from performing certain types of physical labor. Until recently, the ILO and UNICEF
maintained that there was not a significant child labor problem in China, particularly
in the formal and export-oriented economic sectors.129 However, the decentralization
and privatization of the economy has produced widening income gaps, a breakdown
in social welfare services, and greater opportunities for crime and corruption.
Stagnating rural incomes, rising fees for school, and family financial crises coupled
with deteriorating social welfare systems have compelled some poor, rural parents to130
send their children to work.
According to the State Department, the Chinese government publicly maintains
that the country does not have a significant child labor problem, and unlike Vietnam131
has not initiated a program to study the national scope of illegal child labor.
Nevertheless, underage labor (13-15 years of age) has been reported in small factories
and mines in rural and other remote areas and in the cities where young teenagers
work as car washers, garbage collectors, and street vendors. In March 2001, an
explosion in an elementary school in rural Jiangxi province killed 37 children who
reportedly had been forced by their teachers to manufacture firecrackers. Underage
workers have reportedly used fake i.d.’s to work in some foreign-run factories in the
coastal provinces.132 The ACFTU, the Chinese media, non-governmental
organizations, and some Chinese lawyers have researched and publicized the problem

128 Among the actions that may incur a sentence of 10 years or more is enticing or forcing a
trafficked woman into prostitution or selling her to someone else who would force her into
prostitution (article 240, item 4). As in Vietnam, prostitution is prohibited in China; it is
punishable by administrative measures, including labor reeducation.
129 State Department, China Human Rights Report, 1999.
130 One year of school expenses in rural China often surpasses the average family income, so
that many children do not continue schooling past age 13. See Asian Wall Street Journal,
September 6, 2000. See also Kathy Wilhelm, “The Great Divide,” Far Eastern Economic
Review, November 30, 2000. Estimates of the number of child laborers in China range from
“the tens of thousands” to several million.
131 State Department, China Human Rights Report, 2000. See “China Backtracks on School
Blast,” Washington Post, March 16, 2001.
132 “McDonald’s Gets Minced,” Asian Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2000.

and provided legal assistance to underage laborers.133 There have been isolated
incidents of traffickers bribing local authorities and taking children from destitute
parents by promising to find them work that will provide large remittances.134 It has
been speculated that some child prostitutes in Thailand were trafficked from minority
areas in southwestern China.
Explaining the Differences between Vietnam and China
What factors account for the apparently stronger labor rights regime –
particularly the greater union independence and assertiveness – in Vietnam vis a vis
China? The vast differences in physical and population size between the two
countries has played a role. With less than a tenth of China’s population, Vietnam
may be more dependent on the outside world, both politically and economically. If
so, Vietnamese leaders therefore are likely to be more sensitive to prevailing
international norms regarding labor rights, which may explain why they have
aggressively engaged the ILO and the U.S. Department of Labor in recent months.
Despite sharing similar Leninist political structures, relations between labor and
the state in Vietnam and China have followed different paths. Some analysts argue
that Vietnam’s union movement was strengthened by the country’s division and its
civil war. For over twenty years, Vietnam was divided into a communist north and
a capitalist south, giving Vietnam a recent capitalist legacy and labor autonomy that
China lacks. Strikes and other militant labor actions, for instance, were a frequent
occurrence in the south. In the North, decades of war prevented the Communist
Party from imposing the same degree of authoritarian control over the union
movement compared with China.135 Additionally, for a variety of structural and
historical reasons, the Vietnamese Communist Party does not seem to have been as
authoritarian as its Chinese counterpart.
Vietnam’s experiment with economic reforms was enacted later and has been far
less extensive than that in China. Beijing has had to deal with far more social
disruption than has Hanoi, perhaps making China’s leaders more sensitive to
permitting union independence. For instance, Vietnamese leaders also have not
confronted a regime-threatening political experience similar to the Tiananmen protest
movement in the spring of 1989. In the months before the demonstrations, China’s
ACFTU at all levels had pushed for more autonomy from the Party. As part of its
crackdown against the protests, the government squelched the ACFTU’s
assertiveness. 136
However, although Vietnamese unions and laborers possess greater freedoms to
advocate for workers and express grievances than their Chinese counterparts,
progress in labor rights and conditions in Vietnam remains uncertain. Market-

133 Calum and Lijia Macleod, “Never Seen, Never Heard,” South China Morning Post, July

12, 2000, via FBIS, July 12, 2000.

134 In 2000, Chinese authorities executed three persons for trafficking in children.
135 Chan and Nkrlund, “Vietnamese and Chinese Labour Regimes,” p. 204-07.
136 Chan and Nkrlund, “Vietnamese and Chinese Labour Regimes,” p. 214-15.

oriented reforms and foreign investment in Vietnam could lead to a greater emphasis
on production, more official corruption, and heightened social unrest as they have in
China, which may in turn undermine labor rights. Additionally, for all the differences
between Vietnam and China, most rights and freedoms in both countries stem not
from the law, but from the discretion of the Party. Despite the differences between
the two countries, many labor freedoms and rights in Vietnam are still vulnerable to
changes in state policy. Since Vietnam’s Labor Code was adopted in 1994, it is still
being implemented and interpreted.
Conclusion: Implications for the BTA
The state of Vietnam’s worker rights conditions has become part of the debate
over whether Congress should approve the Vietnam-U.S. BTA, which does not
contain provisions that explicitly deal with labor rights. The linkage between labor
rights and the BTA would have become even more contentious if the Bush
Administration had followed up on its proposal to bundle the BTA into a broad-based
trade bill that would also include a U.S.-Jordan free trade agreement and new
negotiating authority (also known as “fast track” or “trade promotion authority”) for
the President to negotiate new multilateral trade agreements.137 Workers’ rights –
along with environmental conditions – will likely be prominent in the debates over
both the Jordan agreement and trade promotion authority. They are also likely to
loom large in the debate over the merits of a bilateral textile agreement, which the
U.S. and Vietnam are likely to negotiate in the next year.
Many proponents of linking labor rights and trade agreements have argued that
Congress should not pass the BTA until Vietnam’s labor conditions improve
further.138 Some labor rights advocates contend that globalization occasionally has
weakened Vietnam’s labor rights regime in the textile and apparel industries; at times,
textile multinationals and industrialized governments have pushed the Vietnamese
government – against the wishes of the VGCL – to relax its enforcement of certain
provisions of the Labor Code.139
Other labor rights advocates argue that while Congress should pass the Vietnam-
U.S. BTA, it should do so only after the signing of a textile and apparel agreement
that includes conditions on labor rights along the lines of the provisions of the
Cambodia-U.S. textile agreement.140 That agreement, which was signed in January

1999, is designed to reward improvements in labor rights with increased access to the

137 “Getting Out in Front on Trade,” (Interview with United States Trade Representative
Robert B. Zoellick) Washington Post, March 13, 2001.
138 See, for instance, “U.S. Labor Vows Fight Against Vietnam Trade Pact,”,
accessed July 17, 2000.
139 Vietnam Labor Watch, “The State of Labor Relations in the Textile and Shoe Industry in
Vietnam,” (draft executive summary) January 5, 2001. Note that Vietnam Labor Watch
supports the U.S.-Vietnam BTA.
140 “Rebuilding U.S. Trade Policy,” a Speech by Representative Sander M. Levin, Center for
Strategic and International Studies, March 6, 2001.

U.S. textile and apparel market. The agreement establishes annual quota levels, which
can be increased by up to 14% each year if the U.S. determines that worker rights in
the Cambodian textile sector “substantially comply” with “international recognized141
core labor standards” and Cambodian labor laws.
Opponents of linking the Vietnam-U.S. BTA to improvements in labor
conditions contend that obtaining MFN status will indirectly help improve Vietnamese
labor conditions. By promoting economic development, they argue, the BTA will
provide Vietnamese workers with more opportunities, increased knowledge, and
improved means to promote their rights. Foreign investment, which is likely to
increase if the BTA is passed, is also thought by some to raise working conditions
generally by bringing in multinational corporations that pay higher wages and have
better health and safety conditions than do local enterprises. Finally, supporters of
unconditional passage of the BTA argue that the agreement will improve labor rights
by promoting the rule of law in Vietnam. For instance, they point out that the BTA
requires Vietnam to publicize in advance most business-related laws and regulations,
a move that should enhance the transparency of the country’s legal regime.

141 January 20, 1999 U.S.-Cambodia Bilateral Textile Agreement, available on the home page
of the U.S. embassy in Cambodia,

Appendix: Vietnamese Labor Laws
The following list includes various labor laws and regulations that are applied in
the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Most of the titles on this list, with a few
exceptions, are in English. They are mainly found in the following two publications:
1) Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam (loose-leaf), compiled by the
Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment and translated by Phillips Fox, an
Australian law firm (hereafter Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam).
2) Hê Thông Van Ban Quy Pham Pháp Luât Hiên Hành vê Lao Dong - Bao
Hiêm Xa Hôi [Compilation of the Current Laws and Regulations on Labor and Social
Insurance], compiled by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs
(1998) (hereafter BLD).
Titles of laws found in the Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam collection are
listed as they are translated therein. Titles from the BLD compilation are listed in
Vietnamese, with an English translation in brackets.
A. General Laws and Regulations on Labor Relations
!The Labor Code of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam of 1994
(Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-122)
!Decree 233-HDBT of June 22, 1990 on Labor for Enterprises with
Foreign Owned Capital (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-

9) [Note: the Labor Code only partially repealed Decree 223-HDBT]

!Decree 72-CP of Oct. 31, 1995 Providing Details and Guidelines for
the Implementation of a Number of Articles of the Labor Code with
Respect to Employment (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p.
!Circular 16-LDTBXH-TT Providing Guidelines for the
Implementation of Decree 72-CP of Oct. 31, 1995 with Respect to
Recruitment of Labor (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-


!Decree 198-CP of Dec. 31, 1994 regarding the Implementation of a
Number of Articles of the Labor Code with Respect to Labor
Contracts (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-213)
!Circular 21/LDTBXH-TT of Oct. 12, 1996 on the Implementation
of a Number of Articles of Decree 198-CP on Labor Contracts
(Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-551)
!Decree 23-CP of Apr. 18, 1996 on Implementation of a Number of
Articles of the Labor Code with Respect to Female Employees
(Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-379)

!Circular 03-LDTBXH-TT of Jan. 13, 1997 Providing Guidelines for
the Implementation of a Number of Articles of Decree 23-CP Dated
April 18, 1996 on Female Employees (Foreign Investment Laws of
Vietnam, p. IV-587)
!Circular 79-1997-TT-BTC of Nov. 6, 1997 Providing Guidelines for
Implementation of Decree 23-CP dated Apr. 18, 1996 on Female
Employees (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-701 )
B. Trade Unions and Collective Bargaining Rights
!Law on Trade Unions of July 7, 1990 (Foreign Investment Laws of
Vietnam, p. IV-1)
!Decree 18-CP of Dec. 26, 1992 on Collective Labor Agreements
(Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-83)
!Decree 196-CP of Dec. 31, 1994 on the Implementation of a Number
of Articles of the Labor Code with Respect to Collective Labor
Agreements (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-195)
!Pháp Lênh ngày 11/4/1996 cua Uy ban Thuong vu Quôc hôi vê thu
tuc giai quyêt các tranh châp lao dông [Decree-Law issued by the
Permanent Committee of the National Assembly to regulate
procedures in labor disputes] (BLD, p. 1598)
!Nghi Dinh sô 51/CP ngày 29/8/1996 cua Chính phu vê vu giai quyêt
yêu câu cua tâp thê lao dông tai doanh nghiêp không duoc dình
công [Decision 51/CP of Aug. 29, 1996, concerning resolution of
labor disputes for workers who work in no-strike enterprises] (BLD,
p. 1632)
!Decision 744-TTg of Oct.8, 1996 on Establishment of Provincial
Labor Arbitration Councils (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam,
p. IV-543)
!Circular 02-LDTBXH-TT of Jan.8, 1997 Providing Guidelines for
the Implementation of Decision 744-T.G. of 1996 on Establishment
of Provincial Labor Arbitration Councils (Foreign Investment Laws
of Vietnam, p. IV-586/1)
!Decision 1208-QD-UB-NC of Mar. 18, 1997 Issuing Provisional
Regulations on the Organization and Operation of Labor
Conciliatory Councils of Enterprises [Applied in Hô Chí Minh City]
(Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-616/1)
!Circular 10-LDTBXH-TT of Mar. 25, 1997 Providing Guidelines for
the Organization and Operation of Conciliatory Councils of
Enterprises and Labor Conciliatory Offices, p. the Level of Districts,

Communes, Cities, and Towns of Provinces and Cities Under the
Central Authority (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam , p. IV-623)
C. Laws on Salary and Wages
!Decree 197-CP of Dec. 31, 1994 on Implementation of a Number of
Articles of the Labor Code with Respect to Wages (Foreign
Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-203)
!Circular 10-LDTBXH-TT of Apr. 19, 1995 Providing Guidelines for
the Implementation of Decree 197-CP of 1994 on Wages (Foreign
Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-326/9)
!Circular 11-LDTBXH-TT of May 3, 1995 on Wages of Vietnamese
Employees Working in Enterprises with Foreign Owned Capital and
Foreign Organizations in Vietnam (Foreign Investment Laws of
Vietnam, p. IV-327)
!Official Letter 2028-VPCP-KGVX of May 28, 1998 on Salaries, and
Official Letter 1824-LDTBXH-TL of June 5, 1998 on Wages in
Enterprises with Foreign Owned Capital (Foreign Investment Laws
of Vietnam, p. IV-749 and IV-751, respectively)
!Decision 385-LDTBXH-QD of Apr. 1, and amended on Apr. 3,
1996 Regulating Minimum Wages for Vietnamese Employees
Working in Enterprises with Foreign Owned Capital, Foreign
Offices and Organizations and International Organizations (Foreign
Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-375)
!Decision 708/1999-QD-LDTBXH of June 15, 1999 on Minimum
Wages for Vietnamese Working for Foreign Invested Enterprises
(Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-875)
!Guidance 1485-LDTBXH-NN of Jun. 30, 1999 (for Ho Chi Minh
City) on the Conversion of Wages of Vietnamese Employees from
US Dollars into Vietnamese Dong (Foreign Investment Laws of
Vietnam, p. IV-879)
!Decree 10-2000-ND-CP of Mar.27, 2000 on Minimum Wage in
Enterprises (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-895)
D. Laws on Work Hours
!Decree 195-CP of Dec. 31, 1994 on the Implementation of a Number
of Articles of the Labor Code With Respect to Working Hours and
Rest Breaks (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-187)
!Circular 07-BLDTBXH-TT of Apr. 11, 1995 on Working Hours
and Rest Breaks [Providing guidelines for the implementation of a
number of articles of the 1994 Labor Code and Decree 195-CP of

1994 on working hours and rest breaks (Foreign Investment Laws of
Vietnam , p. IV-326/1)
!Circular 16-LDTBXH-TT of Apr. 23, 1997 Providing Guidelines on
Reduction of Working Hours for Persons Performing Extremely
Heavy, Toxic, and Dangerous Work (Foreign Investment Laws of
Vietnam, p. IV-637)
!Decree 10-CP of Mar. 1, 1999 on Working Hours and Rest Breaks
[Amending Decree 195-ND-CP dated Dec. 31, 1994 on Working
Hours and Rest Breaks (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-


E. Laws on Safety and Hygiene
!Decree 06-CP of Jan. 20, 1995 on Occupational Safety and Hygiene
(Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-223)
!Circular 22-LDTBXH-TT of Nov. 8, 1996 Providing Guidelines for
Declaration, Registration, and Application for Use of Machinery,
Equipment, Materials and Substances Subject to Strict Occupational
Safety Requirements (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-


!Circular 23-LDTBXH-TT of Nov. 18, 1996 Providing Guidelines for
the Implementation of a Regime for Periodical Statistics and Reports
on Work-Related Accidents (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam,
p. IV-573)
!Circular 10/1998-TT–BLDTBXH of May 28, 1998 Providing
Guidelines for the Implementation of Regulations on Personal
Protective Equipment (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-


!Decree 162/1999-ND-CP of Nov. 9, 1999 on the Amendments and
Additions to Decree 06-CP of 1995 on Occupational Safety and
Hygiene Decree 06 of 1995 (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam,
p. IV-881)
F. Laws on Social Benefits
!Decree 12-CP of Jan. 26, 1995 on Social Insurance (Foreign
Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-235)
!Circular 06-LDTBXH-TT of Apr. 4, 1995 on Social Insurance
Providing Guidelines for the Implementation of Decree 12-CP
(Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-301)
!Circular 58-TC-HCSN of July 24, 1955 on Social Insurance
[Providing Temporary Guidelines for Collection and Payment of

Social Insurance] (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-337)
!Decision 606-TTg of Sept. 26, 1995 Issuing Regulations on the
Organization and Operation of Vietnam Social Insurance (Foreign
Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-343 and IV-345)
!Circular 09-LDTBXH-TT of Apr. 26, 1996 Providing Guidelines for
the Issuance and Record -Keeping of Social Insurance Books
(Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-387)
!Circular 11-LDTBXH of Apr. 7, 1997 Providing Guidelines for the
Application of Social Insurance Regimes for Persons Performing
Heavy, Toxic, and Dangerous Work or Extremely Heavy, Toxic, and
Dangerous Work (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-631)
!Decree 93-ND-CP of Nov. 12, 1998 on Social Insurance [Amending
and Adding to the Decree 12-CP of Jan. 26, 1995 on Social
Insurance (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-811)
!Decree 58-1998-ND-CP of Aug. 13, 1998 on Health Insurance
(Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-775)
!Circular 19-LDTBXH-TT of Aug. 2, 1997 Providing Guidelines for
the Implementation of Compensation Plan for Employees Suffering
Work-Related Accidents (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p.
G. Enforcement of Labor Laws
!Decree 38-CP of June 25, 1996 on Administrative Penalties for
Labor Offenses (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-431)
!Circular 01-TT-LDTBXH of Jan. 6, 1997 on Labor Offenses
[Providing Guidelines on Procedures for the Application of
Penalties, the Collection and the Use of Fines of Labor Offenses;
Settlement of Complaints in Relation to Administrative Penalties for
Labor Offenses] (Foreign Investment Laws of Vietnam, p. IV-577)
!Penal Code of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, in Selection of
Fundamental Laws and Regulations of Vietnam 122 (Hanoi, The
Gioi Publishers, 1995)