Cheap Skilled Workers
The shift from Fordism (mass production) model to a post-Fordism (flexible accumulation) model created a form of labor that placed certain workers at the top of the line. Flexible accumulation “called for smaller and flexible units of production and marketing that could respond to contingent demand with the maximum speed and efficiency.”1 The Doi Moi economic reforms opened doors to transnational corporations to flood into Vietnam. Because Vietnam became a socialist oriented market economy, its economic regulations made it easily for corporations to come into the cities and employ flexible workers.
A large portion of workers in foreign electronic companies is in the production line.2 They are unskilled in that they have formal education and upper secondary school examination. Another portion of the electronic workers are above the unskilled laborers. These workers hold team leader and supervisorial positions. Some workers with high levels of vocational education and college level training resort to technician positions, much lower than engineer positions. Because these skilled cheap workers are in these positions, transnational corporations are able to instill in the workers the idea of loyalty. Internal promotion (working from low positions up to the top) creates a sense of loyalty and stability within the corporations. This keeps the workers at bay, although they have high technical skills. The highly skilled engineers and top-level managers in these electronic companies require not just technical skills but also English proficiency. Because electronic companies, and transnational corporations nonetheless require communication with other countries, partners, business leaders, and industries, English becomes a common language.
Traditional Confucian values are then manifested and augmented. From the notion of staying at home and worrying about the home while the men are out working and dealing with external factors, women have become an integral part in the creation and survival of transnational corporations. The augmentation happens due to women’s duty to their home. They become a source of income for the family matter. Women begin their own businesses in the alleyways, creating an informal public space for customers. “Informal public spaces in postsocialist Ho Chi Minh City include neighborhood street stalls, workplace canteens, and pavements in front of shops, houses, and apartments.”3 These public spaces sometimes existed during certain times of the day, creating a flexible form of congregation.
1. Dirlik, “The Postmodernization of Production and Its Organization: Flexible Production, Work and Culture”
2. Ingeborg Vind, “Transnational companies as a source of skill upgrading: The electronics industry in Ho Chi Minh City.”
3. Catherine Earl, “Vietnam’s ‘Informal Public’ Spaces: Belonging and Social Distance in Post-reform Ho Chi Minh City” in Journal of Vietnamese Studies, Vol 5:1, 2010
Written by: Randy Mai
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