Enhancing the quality of Vietnam’s human resources in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution is predicted to make significant changes to the labour supply and demand, as the Revolution requires workers with highly professional skills, knowledge, as well as innovate and creative ability to be able to catch up with advanced technologies. Therefore, for the countries heavily relying on the golden demographic structure for economic growth as Vietnam, enhancing the quality of human resources will be essential to adopt with the new changes in this context. With brief research of the theoretical basis of human resources and human resources development, this article focuses on analyzing the labour quality enhancing policies of Vietnam, from that proposing solutions for Vietnam to raise the quality of the human resources to catch up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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Introduction The Fourth Industrial Revolution, although having just begun, has made significant changes to the structure of industries in many countries around the world. With the core of advanced technology, the Revolution helps promote innovative industries that will replace the traditional manufactu- ring and service industries, creating new growth engines for many economies. With such characteristics, the Revolution is expected to bring about major changes in labour supply and demand in the world. A highly automated and innovative economy requires workers to have a certain level of technical expertise and ability to adapt to changes in production. Therefore, improving the quality of human resources to catch up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution is essential, especially for developing countries with low quality and productivity to close the gap be- hind other countries. With economies that have achieved high growth rates thanks to the golden de- mographic structure such as Vietnam, the improvement of quality and the shift of labour structure to the technology are essential in this context. From these experiences, Vietnam can develop its own strategies for increasing the quality of human resources and be ready to adopt with the changes cau- sed by the Revolution. Literature review In the course of researching and exploring practical materials related to the topic of human resource development, there are many topics going into this field in Vietnam. In particular, the “Textbook on Human Resource Economics” by Tran Xuan Cau gave the views on the concept of human resources and human resource development, asserting that quality is the most important fac- tor in human resource development [Tran Xuan Cau 2008]. Vu Ba The highlighted in his book the realities of human resources in Vietnam in the previous period, which focused on the advantages, limitations and development trends of Vietnam’s human resources in the context of socio-econo- mic development of the country [Vu Ba The 2005]. Tran Anh Tuan has focused research on evalu- ating and proposing solutions to improve the institutional system of civil servant management in Vietnam to meet the requirements of development and international integration [Tran Anh Tuan 2007]. There are also many scientific research projects, seminars, articles published in many different journals such as “Human resource management in Vietnam” by Pham Thanh Nghi and Vu Ho- ang Ngan [Pham Thanh Nghi, VY HoFng Ngan 2004]; “Scientific arguments for the development of industrial human resources for the southern key economic region” by Truong Thi Minh Sam [Truong Thi Minh Sam 2003]; “Evolution and Development of Human Resource Management in Vietnam” by Nguyen Thi Ngoc Diep [Nguyen Thi Ngoc Diep 2016], etc. However, the above-mentioned works are mainly focused on one particular aspect of human resources, while the other overall research works in Vietnam are not up-to-date. On the basis of in- heriting the work of previous authors, it is necessary to conduct research on the innovation of Viet- nam’s human resources as a whole and addresses the impact of the Industrial revolution 4.0. Theoretical basis According to the United Nations, human resources are the professional skills, knowledge and competence of the whole life of an actual or potential human being for socio-economic development in a community [Kunio 1999]. In Vietnam, the concept of “human resources” has been widely used since the beginning of the renovation, which is evident in human resource studies. In the Textbook on Human Resource Economics of the National Economics University, human reso- urces are a category to indicate the potential strength of the population, the ability to mobilize part- icipation in the production of wealth, materials, and spirit for society in the present and the future [Tran Xuan Cau 2008: 13]. According to the regulations of the General Statistics Office (GSO), human resources include those laborers who are at least 15 years of age and those in working age who are capable of working but in the following conditions: i) being unemployed; ii) attending classes; iii) doing housework in their own family; iv) no demand for working; v) others [Nguyen Tiep 2008: 9]. The concept of “human resources” can also be understood as “human capital”. Being used as a tool to manage the socio-economic development strategy, human resources include the wor- king-age population, working capacity and persons outside the working age who participate in the labour - also known as the labour force. Thus, from these perspectives, it can be seen that there are many different concepts of human resources but they are all consistent with the basic content: human resources are the source of labour for the society. Human resources development can be understood as the process of enhancing the knowled- ge, the skills, and the capacities of all the people in a society [Harbison, Myers 1964]. From the po- int of view of “human resource is human capital”, human resources development consists of investment activities to create human resources with the quantity and quality meeting the demand of so- cio-economic development of the country, while still ensuring the development of each individual [Kunio 1999]. Among different interpretations, there is a common point that human resource development is the process of enhancing human capacity in all aspects to effectively contribute to the national development. Human resource development is to promote the role of human in socio-economic development, thereby increasing the value of human resources. Policies to enhance the quality of human resources in Vietnam from 2010 Human resource development is becoming the most pressing requirement on the current in- dustrialization and modernization process of Vietnam. Still, the country’s development goal has been determined by the Party and State of Vietnam to strive to become a modern industrialized country by 2020. In such context, the Vietnamese Prime Minister on April 19, approved the Vietnam Human Resources Development Strategy for the period of 2011-2020. The above document sum- marizes the current situation and offers main solutions to develop Vietnam’s human resources in a new phase of 3 breakthroughs: Awareness innovation; State management innovation; Focusing on some other key programs and projects [Decision No. 579, 19.04.2011]. Awareness innovation of human resource development and education The State of Vietnam thoroughly grasps the perspective of people as the foundation, the most decisive factor in the sustainable socio-economic development, ensuring the country’s security and defense and the prosperity of each unit and organization. In fact, Vietnam has tried to create a strong shift in human resources at all levels of leadership from the central to grassroots levels and people on the need for radical and revolutionary innovation in state management of education and training, building a learning society. The assessment and remuneration of human resources must be based on real capacity and results and work efficiency. In addition, the Government also pays atten- tion to overcoming psychological and phenomenal issues of over-attaching importance to “Qualifi- cations” in recruitment and assessment of human resources, in which, human resource training must be associated with social needs and labor market demands. So far, the policy of human resource development in Vietnam has undergone many improvements and innovations in the direction of the XI Party Congress as follows: “The fundamental and comprehensive renovation of the national edu- cation must be in the direction of standardization, modernization, socialization, globalization, and international integration, in which innovation in education management mechanism, development of teachers and management staff is key” [VY Ngoc Håi 2011]. Furthermore, the Resolution of the 5th Central Conference of the XII session has also emphasized “the development of human resources, especially high-quality human resources to take advantage of opportunities and achievements of the 4th Industrial Revolution” [Van kien Hoi nghi 2017: 54]. The Vietnamese Government has developed and implemented the Education Development Strategy and the Vocational Development Strategy for the period of 2011-2020. One of the key tasks is developing teachers and education managers throughout strongly innovating content, programs and methods of teaching and learning at all levels. Besides, completing universal preschool education for 5-year-old children (2015), expanding preschool education for children of lower age groups, especially after 2015. Increasing the scale of high school education and developing strongly teaching profession, especially in plain and mountainous provinces. In addition, building a number of universities and vocational training institutions of international standards to provide high-level human resources for the education, training, scientific research and socio-economic development needs of the country. It can be seen that, while Vietnam’s policy in this period is primarily to overcome the exis- ting difficulties and initially change to a new and more correct awareness of the importance of human resources. State management innovation of human resource development Vietnam’s human resource development strategy for the period of 2011-2020 has clearly defined state management innovation as one of three breakthroughs to develop Vietnam’s human resources. When determining the socio-economic development targets of localities, along with the balance of capital, land and energy, the balance of human resources plays a decisive role in attrac- ting investment and ensuring development efficiency. For the national and local levels, the Ministry of Planning and Investment and the Departments of Planning and Investment are the standing agen- cies to develop and monitor the implementation of national and local human resource development plans. For the level of sectors, certain ministries are the responsible agencies to develop the sector’s human resource development plan and coordinate with other ministries and localities to implement the plan. In addition, the Vietnamese policy of human resource development in this period also aims to fundamentally innovate the state management mechanism for education and training establish- ments in the direction of: completing the regulations on state management of articles lawsuits and common standards on the operations and quality assessment of educational institutions; on the con- tent and responsibility of state management of education by the Government, ministries and local People’s Committees; developing policies for education and training development in disadvantaged areas, ethnic minority children, and talent development. One of the policies that has come into prac- tice is promoting decentralization, implementing autonomy and self-responsibility of human resour- ce training institutions on the basis of state management and social supervision. On October 24, 2014, the Government issued Resolution No. 77 / NQ-CP on piloting the renewal of operating mec- hanisms for a number of public higher education institutions. As of 2018, there are 23 out of 163 public higher education institutions piloted by the Government, which are 100 % autonomous, from regular spending to development investment [Truong Thanh Quy 2019]. Although this is a relative- ly modest rate, the initiative of higher education institutions in innovation and autonomy has bro- ught positive changes in both awareness and implementation. Focus on building and implementing other key programs and projects In the period of 2011-2020, Vietnam’s human resource development policy also focused on other key priorities such as: build a number of universities and vocational training institutions of international standards to provide high-level human resources for the education, training, scientific research, and the country’s socio-economic development needs; renovate training and policies of cadres and civil servants; develop and implement training programs and policies to respect talents in the fields, especially the formation and development of a team of leading experts; Implement the project of improving the quality and effectiveness of teaching foreign languages, especially English; quickly reduce the rate of child malnutrition, which focuses on school nutrition projects in combination with physical education and physical training and sports activities in schools. It is worth noting that the budget in this period must ensure the proportion of spending on education and training at 20 % of the total state budget expenditure [Decision No 579: 19.04.2011]. Besides, maintaining the growth rate of State budget spending on health care and people’s health care every year is always higher than the general expenditure growth rate of the total state budget. The Government of Vietnam also focuses on training human resources in specific regions and groups. So far, the quality of human resources in ethnic minority areas is still very low compared to the national level. To deal with this, the Vietnamese Government issued Resolution No. 52 / NQ-CP dated June 15, 2016 on promoting the development of ethnic minority human resources in the period of 2016-2020, heading to 2030. Particularly, the policies have focused on strengthening and priori- tizing the training of ethnic minority and extremely difficult people in appropriate forms (continuing the policy of recruiting and integrating ethnic minority in the project of training grassroots cadres and civil servants, training health workers for the commune level, training projects of the hunger era- dication and poverty reduction program, agricultural and forestry promotion programs, etc.). Besi- des, the government has also expanded vocational training for policy beneficiaries, poor people and paid attention to vocational training suitable for disabled people. Solutions to enhance the quality of human resources of Vietnam in the context of the fourth industrial revolution Strengths and weaknesses of human resources in Vietnam Vietnam has certain advantages in terms of labour thanks to the abundant labour force and relatively young labour structure. By 2017, the workforce (including 15-year-old and above people) in Vietnam was 54.8 million people, in which the working-age population is 48.2 million people [GSO: 8.04.2018]. In the workforce, over 61 % are between the ages of 15-39. This is the age gro- up of people who have the potential to acquire new knowledge and skills. Therefore, they are the core factor in the process of improving the quality of human resources and labour productivity of Vietnam. With a large and abundant workforce, the quality of trained human resources of Vietnam can also be considered as strength in the industrialization 4.0 process. Vietnam has nearly 12 million trained and educated employees, of which more than 5 million are at university level, accounting for 44 % of the total trained workforce. Table 1. Vietnam’s labor force in 2017 classified by technical and professional qualifications, thousands of people Technical qualification 2017 (estimated) Bachelor degree or above 5264.48 Professional college degree 1567.03 Professional intermediate degree 2110.85 Vocational training for 3 months 2957.68 No technical qualification 42 867.23 Total 54 767.25 Source: Quarterly Labor Force Survey Report, Quarter 4/2017 However, besides the strengths, the human resources of Vietnam still have many weaknesses as follows: Firstly, the technical qualifications of Vietnamese workers are low. According to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam, in 2016, only 20.6 % of Vietnamese workers have participated in technical training courses. Among them, the number of technically qualified employees is very low. This is really a barrier and a major limitation of Vietnamese manpower in this Industry Revolution 4.0. At the same time, these limitations have led to other consequences such as low labor producti- vity, competitiveness as well as the low value of Vietnamese human resources in the labor market. According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018, Vietnam was generally ranked 55th, far lower than the China’s 27th and other ASEAN countries. The rankings of technology and inno- vation indicators were much lower. Specifically, the innovation capacity of enterprises ranked 79th, the quality of scientific research ranked 90th, the availability of the latest advanced technology ranked 112nd, the enterprise technology absorption ranked 93rd, while FDI and technology transfer only ranked 89th [WEF 2017]. Secondly, labor productivity is low. According to GSO, the productivity of the economy at current prices in 2017 was estimated at 93.2 million VND per person (equivalent to about 4,159 USD per person). Vietnam’s labor productivity has been improved significantly over the years but still remains very low compared to other countries in the region. If calculating with the purchasing power parity of 2011, Vietnam’s labor productivity in 2016 reached USD 9,894, equivalent to 7.0 % of Singapore; 17.6 % of Malaysia; 36.5 % of Thailand; 42.3 % of Indonesia; 56.7 % of the Philippines and 87.4 % of the labor productivity of Laos [GSO: 8.04.2018]. Thirdly, the percentage of labor force working in science and technology is very low. Altho- ugh the rate of agricultural labour has decreased over years, agriculture still occupies the highest percentage of employees among three main sectors. In 2017, the rate of employment in agriculture, forestry and fisheries is estimated at 40.26 %, while that in the construction industry is 25.74 % and that in the service sector is 34 % [Bo Lao dong 2018: 3]. Vietnam is facing a shortage of human re- sources in many services and high technologies, especially information technology (IT). Until 2015, the number of IT jobs increased by 47 % per year, but the human resources of the industry grew by only 8 %. As estimated, by 2020, Vietnam will have a shortfall of more than 100,000 IT personnel each year [NgFnh Cong nghe: 08.04.2018]. Currently, the scientific and technological staff of the research institutes is still inadequate due to the number of highly qualified staff moving to other jobs with higher incomes, while the number of newly recruited staff is mainly fresh graduates with no research experience. In addition, Vietnamese workers also have many other weaknesses such as the lack of fore- ign language and professional skills, unprofessional working styles and bad management. These di- sadvantages will put a great obstacle for Vietnam in the process of acquiring advanced technology to catch up with the general development trend of the world. Furthermore, Vietnam is facing a rela- tively serious brain drain which causes huge losses for high-quality human resources in the country, as well as making it difficult to synchronously improve the quality of labors and catch up with the latest advanced technology in the world. Solutions to enhance the quality of human resources of Vietnam Although “Vietnam human resource development strategy in the period 2011-2020” is be- ing implemented and initially achieved positive results, there still a lack of an overall strategy to bu- ild and develop high quality human resources to meet the requirements of the industrial revolution 4.0 as well as the industrialization and modernization of the country. The implementation of the fol- lowing solutions will contribute to basically overcome the shortage in quantity, limit in quality, and unreasonableness of human resource structure in Vietnam. Firstly, improving the professional and technical qualfications of Vietnamese workers thro- ugh the reform of the education system. Education is a decisive factor in determining the level of a worker. In order to improve the quality of Vietnamese labours, it is needed to have an extensive reform at various levels in the education sector. Regarding primary and secondary education, it is ne- cessary to reform the content and teaching methods in the direction of promoting creative thinking, self-learning ability, increasing the practice time and improving the quality of foreign language training for students. In addition, it is also essential to set up high-tech vocational training centres in provinces and cities nationwide to meet the labour demand of the technical branches in the future. In term of higher education, university and postgraduate training facilities should be improved to- wards focusing on quality instead of quantity. It is needed to innovate more practical teaching met- hods, facilitate international exchange programmes for students to help them get access to advanced and modern studying and research environment. Furthermore, supporting policies and programmes should also be deployed to attract prestigious lecturers and researchers to teach and work in univer- sities throughout the country. Besides, the government and schools should pay attention to identify- ing and fostering talents, especially in the field of science and technology, in order to meet the high-quality labour demand of a knowledge economy in the future. Secondly, attracting talentedpeople from abroad to work in Vietnam. At present, the level of technology in Vietnam is still low compared to many countries in the world, so attracting foreign scholars and researchers, as well as Vietnamese students who have studied at prestigious educational institutions in the world to come and return to work in Vietnam will have a great significance in the process of learning from and promoting the achievements of the latest advanced technology. In order to do that, beside preferential policies for these people, the working environment should also be improved in a more dynamic and innovative way. In addition, local authorities should also deve- lop their own policies to attract talented people from abroad to work in their localities. This can make great contribution to the objective of economic development and enhancing regional competi- tiveness of each provinces across the country. Thirdly, it is necessary to strengthen the management capacity of entrepreneurs and business executives across the country. It is necessary to focus on developing the creativity and international visibility of business owners, helping them develop long-term and effective business strategi- es with an international approach. On the other hand, management style also has a great influence on the work environment and the level of dedication of employees. Therefore, reforming the mana- ging methods of business executives in the direction of encouraging innovation and creativity is also necessary. In order to do this, the government and local authorities need to develop skills training programmes for entrepreneurs and business managers, encouraging them to build a creative working environment that can deliver positive business performance. Fourthly, it is necessary to strengthen the linkages between universities and training institu- tions with enterprises. Currently, Vietnam is facing the widespread training in many universities, as the number of graduates is very high but the profession and skills of these people cannot meet the requirements of businesses. In the context of a transformation towards focusing on high-tech sector, Vietnam will face with a severe shortage of high-quality human resources. Therefore, the strengthe- ning of linkages between enterprises and training institutions can partially address this situation. Universities and businesses can collaborate to build curricula, conducting the research prgrammes, establish internships and introduce jobs for students. This not only improves teaching content and creates resources for research and development but also help improve the quality of human resour- ces Vietnam. Conclusion Vietnam has made some achievements in the process of enhancing the labour quality to adopt with the new development waves and take the advantages of the latest advanced technologies in the world. Although Vietnam does not have much resource to deploy such large-scale projects, it can still learn from these successful policies to develop its own human resources strategies which are suitable with the development level and resources availability of the country. Although having the strengths of abundant labour forces and young population structures, Vietnamese human resour- ces still have many disadvantages, especially low technical skills and productivity. In order to en- hance the labour quality, an educational reform will be needed, with the focal points of changing the teaching contents and methods toward a more innovative way. Besides, the Vietnamese government should also attach the importance of talents for the development of the country, and imple- ment supporting policies to help attract more talents from abroad and overseas Vietnamese students to return to work in Vietnam. In addition, training courses for business owners and executives sho- uld also be deployed, in order to help them create new global strategies and build a more creative and innovative working environment. Furthermore, it is also necessary to strengthen the linkages between schools and enterprises, as it might help change the teaching content in the way of foste- ring innovation and creativity, as well as develop a human resource with better practical skills.

About the authors

Thanh Lam Ha

Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Email: lamthanhha@dav.edu.vn
Senior Lecturer


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