Research Project: IR Transformation in Vietnamese Firms

Small but Important Changes: the Transformation of Labour Relations in

Vietnamese Enterprises after Doi Moi



The explosion of wildcat strikes in the foreign-invested sector has drawn most of attention to labour relations in this area. There is a common assumption among labour administrators and researchers that labour relations problems exist mainly in foreign-owned companies where employers’ violations are pervasive and the local workers are not used to the foreign management approaches. However, a few studies conducted recently pointed out that labour relations in Vietnamese companies have underwent equally drastic changes although they had very few strikes compared to the FIEs (see for example Collins 2009; Do 2011). The Vietnamese companies have to adapt their labour relations approach in order to compete with foreign companies at home and abroad; that is not to say that they face with more difficulties in terms of capital, market access, and technology. Even in SOEs, the ‘cradle-to-grave’ welfare system has been downsized or even eliminated to cut costs and the pressure on workers to raise productivity and tighten disciplines has become fierce.

A thorough study in the transformation of labour relations in Vietnamese enterprises, therefore, will be valuable for labor administrators and researchers to have a better understanding of both labour problems and solutions that Vietnamese companies, enterprise unions and workers are handling. In the end, it is the Vietnamese enterprises that make up the majority of the economy and provide 80 percent of total employment rather than their foreign counterparts.

Research Objectives

The objectives of the research are:

  1. Explore the changes in:
  • Economic and political context for Vietnamese companies (SOEs, equitized SOEs, and private companies) after Doi Moi
  • Employment practices of Vietnamese employers
  • Organisation, leadership and practices of enterprise unions of Vietnamese companies
  • Labour force and labour community
  • Labour-management relationship (labour relations strategies, labour activism)
  1. Assess the interactive links between Government economic and labour policies and Vietnamese companies’ changing approach to employment relations
  2. Investigate the network of Vietnamese employers and its effects on the direction of employment relations strategy.


The research will be conducted in 4 stages:

Stage 1: Desk review

–        Review of all relevant literature on Vietnamese companies (in English and Vietnamese) to develop conceptual framework

–        Draft phone survey questionnaires (2 questionnaires: for managers and for union officials)

–        Select 100 Vietnamese enterprises for phone survey: SOEs, POEs, and equitized companies; small sized (under 100 workers); medium-sized (101-300 workers); and big-sized (over 300 workers) in 3 economic sectors: export-oriented, labour-intensive industries (garment, footwear, electronics); domestic-oriented labour-intensive industries (construction, FMCG); skill-intensive industries (precision engineering, automobile)

–        Negotiate access to these enterprises

–        Training of interviewers

Stage 2: Phone survey

–        Phone survey of the selected 100 Vietnamese enterprises (2 interviews for each company)

–        Analyse data collected from the phone survey

–        Propose a list of enterprises for in-depth research (tentatively 6 enterprises will be chosen)

Stage 3: In-depth research

–        Field visit to the selected enterprises

–        In-depth interviews: managers (CEOs, HR managers, marketing managers); unions (union chairpeople; shopstewards); workers (focus group discussion); local authority and union organisations

–        Visit workers’ communities

Stage 4: Report writing and lauching

–        Write a summary of initial findings and present at a research workshop (20 pax.)

–        Write the report (English and Vietnamese)

–        Editing for publication (in the form of a book or ILO working paper)

–        Launch the final product in a workshop.


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