Although Vietnam is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, the country’s economy has been impacted by the global economic downturn and continued economic uncertainties but nevertheless, Vietnam’s recruitment market continues to suffer from shortages of skilled professional talent – meaning there continues to be job opportunities for foreign expatriate talent.
The Vietnamese Diaspora, Viet Kieu and Vietnamese Returnees
There are around 4 million overseas Vietnamese or so-called Viet Kieu with the largest concentration being in the United States. In fact, there are at least 1.8 million Vietnamese in the United States with many of them concentrated in Orange County and San Jose, California as well as Houston, Texas with the vast majority of this community having left Vietnam or having been born after the Vietnam War ended. In addition, there are 250,000 Viet Kieu living in France with many of them also arriving at the end of the war. Large communities of Vietnamese can be found in Australia, Canada, the UK, Germany, the Czech Republic and in other former Eastern Bloc countries.
In 2004, the Vietnamese government began a series of legal changes to encourage Viet Kieu to return to Vietnam. Specifically, laws were passed to allow Viet Kieu to re-claim their Vietnamese citizenship and to own property in Vietnam plus its estimated that Vietnamese living overseas send back at least $10 billion in remittances a year – an important source of hard currency for the country.
In addition, it’s worth noting that the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training estimated that at the end of 2011, over 100,000 Vietnamese students were studying abroad in 49 countries with the top five countries being Australia (25,000), the United States (14,900), China (12,500), Singapore (7,000) and France (5,500). Moreover, approximately 90% of Vietnamese students pursuing overseas training programmes paid for their studies by using their own funds.
However, its worth noting that many Vietnamese who do return from studying abroad also return with unreasonable or unrealistic salary expectations that do not account for the time they were absent from the country and the changes that occurred in the economy and in the job market during that period.
The Vietnam Recruitment Market
Despite economic uncertainties, the Vietnam recruitment market suffers from shortages of high quality talent in major sectors of the economy such as FMCG, healthcare, hospitality, IT, manufacturing and retail banking, especially at the technical, middle and senior management levels. Moreover, rampant “job hoping” only serves to compound talent shortages and skill gaps within the Vietnam recruitment market.
Hence, foreign expatriates who have both the right skill sets and just as importantly, have reasonable compensation expectations (up to $5,000 or $6,000 net per month plus reasonable expatriate allowances) that match the size of Vietnam’s economy and market place (and hence, the ability of employers to compensate) will continue to find job opportunities in the Vietnam recruitment market with both foreign MNCs and a few of the larger local firms.
Working in Vietnam
In theory, Vietnam work permits for foreign expatriates seeking to work in Vietnam for a period longer than 3 months are issued by Ministry of Labor, Invalid and Society (with involvement of The Foreign Affairs Representatives of Vietnam and the General Consulate Office of Vietnam) and are valid for 36 months (3 years). Specifically, foreign expatriates will need to have both a Vietnam Multiple Entry Business Visa (MEBV) and a Vietnam Work Permit plus there are requirements that foreign companies operating in Vietnam must observe when it comes to the numbers of foreign expatriates verses locals in managerial and senior executive roles.
In reality and in the past, there have been many foreign expatriates living and working in Vietnam merely on tourist or multiple entry business visas as the work permit rules have been in flux with considerable uncertainty and confusion for foreign expatriates and employers alike. However, Vietnam is becoming more stringent with regard to foreign expatriates (especially those who are not from “first world” countries) and both Vietnam business visas and Vietnam work permits. For further information about Vietnam work permits or Vietnam visas in general, visit the website of the Vietnam Ministry of Labor, Invalid and Society or Business.gov.vn.
As for taxes, Vietnam’s income tax rates are progressive and up to 35% while nonresidents are taxed at a flat tax rate of 20%. Moreover, Vietnamese residents are taxed on their worldwide income while nonresidents are taxed only on their Vietnamese-source income. To be considered a Vietnam resident, an individual must spend 183 days or more in aggregate in a 12-month period in the country starting from the date the individual arrives in Vietnam or maintain a residence in Vietnam or lease a residence for 90 days or more during a tax year. Generally speaking though, a foreign expatriate in Vietnam will be quoted a net salary package for jobs in Vietnam. For further information about Vietnam tax rates or Vietnamese taxes in general, visit taxrates.cc, or KPMG’s Taxation of International Executives page for Vietnam or PWC Vietnam’s publications page for its latest Vietnam Tax Booklet.