Decades of conflict meant Vietnam showed little economic growth for many years. Since its renovation policy in 1986 the nation has focused on increased economic liberalisation, modernisation and a move to more competitive export-driven industries. Today the Communist state has one of south-east Asia’s fastest-growing economies and aims to become a developed nation by 2020. However, the government’s plan to open three special economic zones to draw in foreign investment has been delayed until at least 2019 due to widespread public protests around concerns it will boost China’s influence in the country.
With a population of almost 96.2 million, Vietnam has one of the highest population densities in the world. However, it isn’t evenly dispersed, with the largest concentrations of people clustered along the South China Sea and Gulf of Tonkin. Labour is highly mobile in the country, with many of the working population viewing roles in international organisations as key opportunities to develop their careers.
According to senior international HR professional Carolyn Moore, who has worked in Vietnam, there are particular rules around engaging foreign workers, such as requirements that expats help transfer skills to local employees. “Vietnamese employment law also strongly supports employee rights, and provides particularly strong protections from termination of employment for pregnant workers and workers returning from maternity leave,” she adds.
From the HR frontline
One of the biggest challenges, says Moore, is that the concept of HR as a strategic function is still developing in the market, so many functions are still administratively heavy.
“To this end, organisational development and talent development are key trends that will continue to prevail in order to build greater HR capability, as well as to attract and retain employees in a fast-paced and highly-mobile environment,” she says.
There are many traditions and customs practised in both local and international companies based in Vietnam that HR should also be mindful of, such as businesses closing down for a week during the Lunar New Year festival Tet where most people travel to their home provinces to celebrate with family.