Fisheries is a very important sector for the development of Viet Nam and contributes to the country’s food security, poverty alleviation, sustainable livelihood creation, economic growth, and generates rural employment. Fisheries exports brings US$8–10 billion per year to Viet Nam, compared to a total gross domestic product of around US$250 billion. Approximately four million people are directly employed in fishing and aquaculture of which 179,601 workers are engaged in capture sea fisheries. It is estimated that 10 percent of the population is either directly or indirectly employed in these sectors. Most Vietnamese fishers are small-scale operators. (Seafood Obtained via Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing: U.S. Imports and Economic Impact on U.S. Commercial Fisheries, United States International Trade Commission, February 2021, publication Number 5168, page 184) and Overview of Fisheries and Aquaculture in Viet Nam (Available in Vietnamese only).
There are currently over 540,000 Vietnamese migrant workers working abroad, among them, 12,000 are working in fishing sector. In the past three years, more than 4,000 fishers left every year to work abroad, mainly to Korea and Taiwan (China). Most migrant fishers find work abroad through 40 licensed recruitment agencies in Viet Nam. According to the Department of Overseas Labour, every year, migrant fishers send home approximately US$10 million in remittances. However, migrant fishers still face many challenges including paying exorbitant recruitment costs and fees, limited access to effective complaint mechanism and remedy, and difficulties in social and labour market reintegration upon return. The COVID-19 pandemic has put migrant workers, especially fishers, into more difficulties. Travel restrictions and other factors saw the number of outbound workers reduce by 50% in 2020 compared to the previous year. Tens of thousands migrant workers cannot return home, and are stranded having no job, no place to stay, and limited access to information and health care services in destination countries. In 2020, the National Assembly adopted the Law governing labour migration abroad (Law 69) which removed brokerage charge as a step to reduce recruitment fees and related costs to migrant workers. However, migrant workers still must pay a service charge and deposits to recruitment agencies to go abroad. The new Law 69 also prohibits discrimination, forced labour and trafficking in labour migration. Ship to Shore Rights South East Asia will continue to support legislative change, improved business practices, and stronger workers’ representation for the benefit of migrant workers in Viet Nam.