Since the beginning of this century, Vietnam has managed to reduce poverty and more than doubled the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita. Still, it is one of the poorer countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Moreover, it has to deal with a high inflation rate and rising food prices. Nevertheless, because of a low unemployment rate, which has constantly been under 3% in the last 10 years, cheap labour and a high number of young workers, Vietnam sparks an interest with international companies.
Although not very accessible for foreigners, agriculture, forestry and fishery still constitute the biggest sector of Vietnam’s economy. However, this sector is declining while industry and services are on the rise. The programme of Doi Moi (Renovation), which in 1986 turned Vietnam into a free market economy, played an important role here.
Major western and Chinese companies recently relocated to Vietnam due to cheaper wages and production costs. These companies often engage experienced workers from their original country to train locals.
Information technology, construction and tourism are probably the most promising sections to find a job for expats. Especially because in these trades, there is a lack of skilled workers in Vietnam. In addition, the fields of manufacturing, mining, the garment industry and the power sector are also worth looking into.
Another increasing possibility is to teach English. The rising popularity of Vietnam as a tourist destination, and the opening to global markets, are catalysts in the demand for English-language teachers.
Where to find a job in Vietnam
Finding a job in a local company with neither the right contacts nor the ability to speak Vietnamese is hardly possible. On the contrary, the job prospects in global enterprises are quite good.
When you consider working in Vietnam, you should calculate at least three months for the job search. Either you should be able to afford to stay there for a few months without a proper job or, much better, start your search from your home country.
Bear in mind that finding a job and applying for it is a different thing than securing the job. For the latter, it will be crucial in nearly any case to come to Vietnam. Luckily, finding a job as an expat in Vietnam is not too hard in international companies. Although it is not absolutely necessary, knowing some basics in Vietnamese is of course a plus, and will also earn you additional respect.
Although the prospects are quite good, you should bear in mind that Vietnamese workers take priority. Foreigners, even in global companies, may only be employed if there is no local alternative. At least 20% of managers, executive directors and experts in a company have to be Vietnamese. Furthermore, the enterprise has to ensure that it trains Vietnamese people in order to replace foreigners.
Since it is very likely that you will work for a global company, you will find the lion’s share of jobs in the capital Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Depending on the desired job, you may also find vacant positions in Binh Duong, Dong Nai, Hai Duong, Ba Ria Vung Tau or in regions with much tourism.
Where to search
Especially if you start searching for a job before arriving in Vietnam (which is highly recommended), the Internet is the best source for job advertisements. It is a common way, and there many useful sites to look for jobs.
Vietnamworks is exclusively for Vietnam, and is one of the biggest websites with thousands of job advertisements from all sectors. You can also find plenty of jobs on global providers, such as Monster. Jobstreet specializes in searches for IT, marketing, sales and engineering positions. Luckily, all the sites are available in English.
If you are already in Vietnam, you can also be successful by searching the local newspapers. Although, if you are considering this option, it will be crucial to understand Vietnamese properly. Searching in expat forums can also provide some results.
Another possibility, which is an option in nearly every country of the world, is teaching English. A rising number of tourists and Vietnam’s opening to the global economy has increased the demand for English speakers. Universities are a good contact point, although not the best paying employers. Teaching jobs are often part-time, and compared to western standards, the salaries are not too high. However, due a lower cost of living, and compared to local Vietnamese salaries, teaching English allows a comfortable way of life. It can be a good start to get used to the country and culture.