Quality of life falls in HCM City

HCM City (Viet Nam News/ANN) - HCM City heads the country in economic growth, but the quality of life of its residents has not developed correspondingly, participants said at a seminar held on Thursday.

The economic difficulties in recent years affected most residents, especially those with low incomes, they said.

Nguyen Huu Nguyen of the South Economic Research Centre said low income people were hardest hit in times of economic strife.

Most "negatives," whether it is red tape, social evils or environmental problems like pollution and flooding, affect them directly, according to Nguyen.

High income people can avoid the direct impacts of social and environmental negatives as they have money to buy better services and live in areas with good infrastructure and security.

Le Thi My Ha of the HCM City Development Research Institute said people in the city's outlying and rural areas were more affected by ongoing economic problems.

"People in these areas use 45.5 per cent of their spending for food, 6 per cent for education and 3 per cent for culture, sports and other entertainment activities," Ha said.

A survey of 500 migrant workers in the Linh Trung 1 Export Processing Zone and the Tan Tao Industrial Park, carried out by a research group from the HCM City University of Social Science and Humanities, has found that the quality of spirit and material life of migrant workers in the city is very low.

The survey has found that 58 per cent of the surveyed workers have an average monthly income of VND2-3 million (US$95-140) and for nearly 40 per cent, the average income is less than VND2 million.

More than 70 per cent live in small rented places that lack sunlight and clean water and about 40 per cent work in a hot, noisy, dusty or dangerous environments.

These workers do not watch movies, read newspapers and magazines, engage in entertainment activities or make friends.

Nguyen Thi Dan, head of the Wage and Salary Division under the city's Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said that over the past 20 years the city attracted many foreign companies, most of whom invested in the assembling sector.

"Workers are employed when they are 18-40 years old. When the workers enter the 40-45 age group, they are dismissed with their health worn out, without social insurance and without professional skills. How can they have a decent quality of life?" she said.

Participants at the seminar also noted that economically better-off faced several problems including stress and tension.

Le Van Thanh of the HCM City Development Research Institute said the city was the country's economic hub, but residents faced many pressures from traffic jams, environmental pollution and urban flooding.

Other factors that lead to a decline in the quality of life include increasing crimes like robbery and lack of control over food hygiene and safety, according to seminar participants.

According to Le Thanh Tung of the Ton Duc Thang University the quality of life increases when income for consumption and saving increases.

However, his research has shown that most city residents have not been able to save anything during the 2008-10 period, and had to use part of their savings from previous years for consumption.

To improve the life quality for city residents, participants said the city should give priority for social security policies.

Duong Thi Phuong, of the Political - Administrative Institute of Zone II, said the city should choose a social security model that was suitable with the city's conditions.

The model should have policies on insurance (health, employment and unemployment insurance), labour market (vocational training and job placement) and emergency and temporary social aid.

These policies must be transparent to receive the support of residents, she said.

Nguyen of the South Economic Research Centre said the city should seriously address the problems of low income residents if the quality of life in the nation's economic hub is to improve.

The city should give investment priority to projects building transport infrastructure, preventing and controlling flood and treat environmental pollution in residential areas populated by low income residents, he said.

The seminar, organised by the HCM City Development Research Institute, was attended by about 80 experts in various fields.

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