Vietnam dodged the coronavirus bullet, so why are its workers struggling?

Along a busy highway on the outskirts of Vietnam’s largest city, a worn-out looking woman carrying all her worldly possessions in a handful of plastic bags picks her way through a web of swaying hammocks, looking for one that’s empty so she can lay her weary head down for the night.

It’s about 10pm and she has already paid her 20,000 dong (86 US cents) entry fee, which includes use of the hammock cafe’s showers, plug sockets, Wi-fi, blankets and drinking water.

As trucks rumble past on the winding National Highway 1A through Ho Chi Minh City’s western Binh Tan District, she emerges from the washroom, having changed into a pair of bright yellow pyjamas, and gets ready to slump into bed.

The woman is 58-year-old Hien, one of the legions of migrant workers who have left their homes in Vietnam’s less-developed rural provinces over the past few decades in search of opportunity as the economy boomed.

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Sen Nguyen