Officials in Vietnam are campaigning to reduce the country’s legal work week from 48 hours to 40 hours.
One of the effort’s main supporters is Nguyen Thien Nhan. He is the secretary of Ho Chi Minh City’s Communist Party central committee.
Nhan and others in the government have argued that making people work longer hours does not increase their productivity. Currently, Vietnam has a legal work week of 48 hours. This means people are expected to work six days a week, for eight hours a day.
Nhan says it is common for many workers to spend much longer on the job than the current legal limit. “Do we want our husbands or wives, our children or siblings to work nine to 10 hours a day all year round, or 10 to 12 hours a day for six months?” Nhan said. “We need to answer this question ourselves, before we even discuss overtime.”
Some countries have already taken steps to reduce the number of working hours. For example, Australia bars employers from requiring employees to work more than 38 hours a week.
Some European countries have average work weeks far below 40 hours. In Germany, the average worker spends 1,363 hours on the job each year, a 2018 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found. This equals about 26 hours per week.
Citizens of Denmark labor a little longer, with an average 1,392 working hours each year. Next is Norway, where workers spend 1,416 hours on the job.
Nhan and his supporters have noted that movements for a 40-hour work week date back to a gathering of socialist and labor parties in 1889. However, Nhan said the 40-hour work week also became a recognized right among capitalist nations.
In some countries, companies are taking their own steps to reduce working hours for employees. Microsoft Japan is testing out a four-day work week. Rheingans, a technology company in Germany, is limiting its workers to a five-hour workday.
In Vietnam, the 48-hour week is more common among the country’s non-professional workers. Many government and professional workers work a 40-hour work week.
Nguyen Thi Xuan is a member of Vietnam’s parliament. She has expressed worries that some companies may already be overworking employees under the 48-hour system. Xuan, who represents a farming town in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, called for a reduction in working hours to protect the health and living standards of workers.
While Nhan and others keep pushing their campaign for a 40-hour work week, they are not expecting the change to happen anytime soon. Some are hoping their goal can be reached within 10 years. They have pointed out that Vietnam’s Communist Party was founded in 1930. By the time the party turns 100, in 2030, the nation’s workforce could receive a gift: a new 40-hour work week.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Ha Nguyen wrote this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
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Words in This Story
sibling – n. a sister or brother
capitalist – adj. a political and economic system in which industry is owned privately for profit and not by the state
standard – n. level of quality