Lessons Must Be Drawn From Viet Workers’ Deaths in Malaysia

Many lessons must be learned from sending Vietnamese workers to Malaysia since the price is high as recent statistics show almost 400 Vietnamese guest workers have died in Malaysia since 2004, which works out at one death for every six days.

Vietnamese workers take a language training course before going abroad to work (Photo: SGGP)

About 100 out of 70,000 Vietnamese laborers in Malaysia died in 2005; and 107 from among 120,000 the year earlier, reported Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Quynh, chief of the Overseas Labor Department under the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs during a press conference in Ha Noi on Tuesday.

He added that one third of the fatalities were unexpected and involved strokes or respiratory diseases, brought on probably by overwork, poor diets, drinking and unhealthy lifestyles.

However, a working team sent to Malaysia to check out the problem in 2005 found out nothing abnormal. “The weather is basically like in Viet Nam. The working conditions, eating and living is similar,” Deputy Minister Nguyen Thanh Hoa quoted the team as saying.

Mr. Hoa suspected that poorly-conducted health checks on Vietnamese workers prior to their departure was a reason for so many deaths in Malaysia.

To cope, later in 2005, the Vietnamese Government issued regulations authorizing only hospitals to perform such health checks. The result, as supplied by Mr. Hoa, was a fall in fatality rate from 0.13% in 2005 to 0.09% last year.

Another current pending problem is compensation for deaths which many view as inappropriate.

In theory, the Malaysian government compensates around 23,000 Malaysian ringgit (VND70-80 million) for one death but in pratice, just a dozen cases have enjoyed this reimbursement scheme from among 400 cases.

Then, a majority of the victim families only received VND20-30 million each from concerned labor export companies, delegates at the meeting said.

However, Mr. Hoa assured that for any legitimate death, relevant agencies will handle all procedures and all compensations fully paid.

The many overdue compensations can be attributed to cumbersome procedures which can prolong from three months to one year, he explained.

In addition, the Vietnamese government’s fund for overseas labor assistance, which is to be launched soon, will donate VND10 million to each case.

Life and death lessons from exporting labor to Malaysia, where about 120,000 Vietnamese employees are currently working, must be drawn carefully. Meanwhile, many guest workers have not been equipped with necessary skills to work in a foreign environment, to protect themselves, and are ignorant as to where to contact whenever problems arise.

By Phan Thao – Translated by Tuong Thuy

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