In the small province of Binh Duong in southern Vietnam, trucks crowd a small road leading to the port from sunrise to sunset, with a few cars and motorbikes honking their horns impatiently among them.
During the morning and evening rush hours, traffic jams can last for more than an hour, as bottlenecks of trucks carry cargo to and from Cat Lai Port, the biggest and busiest container terminal in Vietnam.
The difficulty navigating this sole access road reflects an increasingly challenging environment for manufacturers in Vietnam across the board, as the country’s production hubs become ever more crowded and expensive.
On one hand, booming investment in Binh Duong has boosted the revenue of Chinese businessman Weng Caibing’s construction company by 50 per cent over recent years. But now he has a new headache: it is becoming increasingly tougher to find workers, especially skilled Chinese-Vietnamese translators.
Four years ago, all available jobs would be filled within two days of Weng posting the recruitment notice on the company gate. Now, it is hard for Weng to find talent, even if he pays more than 2,000 yuan (US$290) per month for job advertisements.
“The large amount of Chinese investment has caused malignant competition for labour. Five million Vietnamese dong (US$213) [per month] could get me a good translator before, but now I have to pay 15 million dong (US$638). And I’m still struggling to find the right person,” Weng told the South China Morning Post in a recent interview at his factory.
Weng’s construction company is 60 minutes drive from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s financial centre and largest city. There are now 30 new industrial parks in the region, catering to foreign firms moving south from China to escape higher prices for land and labour. In recent months, the movement has accelerated, as firms look to dodge trade war tariffs imposed by the United States.
In the first five months of this year, Vietnam’s foreign investment capital reached US$16.74 billion, up 69.1 per cent year on year. The largest share came from Hong Kong companies, with a total investment of US$5.08 billion. Given the fact that most of Hong Kong’s traditional manufacturing base migrated north to Guangdong over recent decades, it is fair to assume that much of that investment represents manufacturers moving to Vietnam from China.