Traditional handicraft villages in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang are facing labour shortages as young people are leaving to work at industrial parks in HCM City and southeastern provinces.
|Phu Tan Handicraft Village in An Giang Province. Many handicraft villages face a labour shortage as young people leave rural areas to take jobs at industrial parks. — VNS File Photo
Traditional artisans who rely on the high water season to make handicrafts have been the hardest hit, with many households suspending operations.
The number of households that make fish hooks in Long Xuyen Town, for example, has fallen to fewer than 10 families from several hundred 20 years ago.
Only women are doing the job now, as young people continue to leave for factories and industrial parks.
A handicraft village that made bamboo fish traps in An Phu District faced the same challenge, two years after the Con Coc traditional fish trap village in the district had to suspend operations.
As a result, all of the workers in the two fish trap-making cooperatives lost their jobs.
Nguyen Minh Tri, chairman of the Phuoc Hung Commune Farmers Association, said that more than 70 per cent of young people who earn their living by making fish traps have quit to look for jobs, mainly at industrial complexes in other localities.
Figures reveal that in the high-water season of 2016, over 800 labourers from Vinh Hoi Dong Commune registered to seek jobs in other localities, but the actual figure could be higher, according to Nguyen Van Tung, deputy chairman of Vinh Hoi Dong Commune People’s Committee in An Phu District.
He said that two-thirds of the number of workers aged between 18 and 45 have sought job opportunities far from home.
“Efforts to offer vocational training and preservation of traditional handicrafts have been ineffective,” Tung said.
The traditional handicraft villages specialising in glutinous rice chapatti and hearths for cooking in Phu Tan District now employ mostly older people.
Nguyen Thi A, owner of a hearth at a cooking facility in Phu Tan District’s Phu Tho Commune, said most of her younger workers had sought better jobs at industrial parks.
Cho Moi District in the province has 13 traditional handicraft villages, with a total of 3,500 households and over 7,600 labourers.
Two-thirds of them earn a living in woodwork and carpentry, according to figures from the Cho Moi District People’s Committee.
“We’ve found it very difficult to attract young labourers to these villages in rural areas,” said Pham Van Duong, head of the Economics and Infrastructure Division of Cho Moi District.
Employment opportunities at industrial parks have also caused challenges to vocational training, labour management and handicraft village development, according to Nguyen Van Hop, deputy head of the Tan Chau Town’s Division of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.
Most of the traditional handicraft villages in Tan Chau Town, such as the My A satin weaving village; the Cham Chau Phong brocade-making village, and the Uzu sedge-mat making village, are no longer operating.
The main cause behind the disintegration has been the departure of young residents, Duong said.
To save the villages, he said that authorities must organise vocational courses for workers and create development plans for the handicraft villages.
To attract workers, salaries at the villages must be higher than the pay for workers at industrial parks, he said.
The quality of vocational courses provided to labourers at handicraft villages needs to be improved as well, Duong added.
Vo Thi Lien, director of a centre for stimulating industry and industrial development in the province, said the 28 traditional handicraft villages that still exist in the province face a limited labour force.
The responsibility to attract workers is with the An Giang Department of Industry and Trade, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, according to Lien.VNS