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Speech by Ms. Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam during the signing ceremony to support young international migrant workers returning due to Covid-19 in Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Tri provinces

Excellency, Mr Ngo Van Cuong, the Secretary of the Vietnam Youth Union;

Excellency, Minister Okabe from the Embassy of Japan to Viet Nam;

Senior representatives of the Ministry of Home Affairs;

Leaders of the Provincial Youth Unions and young returning international migrant workers;


Dear participants,

To start, let me express my sincere appreciation to all of you for organising today’s event despite challenges of COVID-19. The pandemic has caused a lot of losses of life, as well as socio-economic difficulties, while exacerbating existing inequalities and disproportionately affecting vulnerable population groups. And here we should not forget vulnerabilities of adolescents and youth. Their risk to COVID-19 is often under-estimated. Yes, young people may have a stronger immune system, but it does not necessarily mean that they are not affected by the impact of COVID-19. It is important to recognize that young people have been confronted with multiple shocks including a disruption to education and employment, income loss, greater difficulties in finding a job, and accessing health and other public services. The ILO Monitor on COVID-19 and the world of work, which was released in May 2020, pointed out that over one in six young people had stopped working since the onset of the COVID‑19 crisis.


Young international migrant workers are one of the hardest hits. Information from the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) shows that in 2019, over 147,000 Vietnamese migrants were working in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia and other countries. The economic impact of COVID-19 in many of these countries has placed Vietnamese migrant workers in a vulnerable and uncertain position. Many of them have lost their jobs, often at short notice. Some have had to take on debt to survive whilst for others, loss of employment may have affected their immigration status and their right to remain in the host country. They had to return home often in short notice and without much choice. And when they are at their homeland, they too suffer from reintegration to the local market and communities.


Today, these young returning workers are still waiting for the date they can go back to the international labour market to work and support their families. As a result, psychological stress is common among them because of uncertain future, difficulties in finding jobs to generate income for the daily life, and limited access to life skills including comprehensive sexuality education. 

It is against this background that the Project "Mitigating the negative impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable population groups - Ensuring National Progress to Achieve SDGs in Viet Nam", has been approved with funding from the Government of Japan. And the project included a component to support young Vietnamese international migrant workers, who have returned to Viet Nam due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The objective is to help them with essential life skills education including comprehensive sexuality education, provide them with further professional support for their re-integration into the domestic labour market, and assist them for future career and life-long planning.


Under this component, a number of initiatives on job replacement, income generation and life skills education, which has been designed, implemented and managed by young international migrant workers themselves will be funded. This is the reason behind our event today. To this effect, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude towards the support from and the trust by the Government of Japan to UNFPA for providing funding to these initiatives.


I would also like to thank the Vietnam Youth Union for taking a lead in implementing activities in support for Vietnamese young international migrant workers. As UNFPA, I voice our strong commitment to closely working with the Vietnam Youth Union, so that Vietnam’s young people are not left behind in the country’s sustainable development process.


Thank you very much for your attention and participation!