What to Expect in 2017
What is in store for Vietnam, and particularly Ho Chi Minh City, in 2017? We track the city’s top experts in a number of industries to find out what you can expect from this ever-changing place we call home.
An ocean of unpredictability surrounds changes in law, infrastructure, and other industries. Brushing away the fine details leaves us with a relatively positive direction, but little knowledge of our immediate future. It is certain that the city – and the country as a whole – wants to improve in all aspects, but how and when is a big question for residents.
We spoke to some of the most knowledgeable experts in their respective fields to determine what HCMC residents can expect in 2017.
ANT Lawyers, an internationally recognised law firm with offices throughout Vietnam, noted some important changes for 2017:
Social Insurance Laws
New fathers will have a chance to spend time with their partners after childbirth, with five days given off from work if their wife gives birth normally and seven if the birth requires surgery. These days double if she gives birth to twins. Surrogate mothers get a maximum of six months of maternity leave, and the receiving mother gets six months as well once the baby is given to her. If the newborn is under two months and passes away, the father will be given four months off, and half that if the baby is above two months. f the mother dies, the father will fill maternity leave for her.
Several changes will occur in 2017 that will affect the labour force. First, retirement age will increase from 55 to 58 for women, and 60 to 62 for men. Next, the labour code will favour enterprises employing above-average numbers of female staff. Finally, those with a post-secondary level of education will have a minimum wage of VND3 million per month, up from VND2.8 million.
The new year will see the online centralisation of the visa process. The e-visas will take three days to process and be for valid for 30 days, but will only be available for countries with diplomatic relations with Vietnam. There will be no need of any invitation letters as required before, easing the burden on travellers.
People expected the ratification of the TPP to lead to a rise in exportation of Vietnamese goods, especially garments and shoes. It was also thought to potentially help Vietnam attract more foreign direct investment from TPP as well as non-TPP countries. So what will Vietnam lose now that the agreement has been dismissed?
Dr. Tran Thi Thuy Duong, a lecturer at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Law, says not as much as we think. She reminds us that in 2016, the TPP was one of the top four ways for Vietnam to integrate into the world trade system; the other three being the EVFTA (Europe-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement), the VN-EAEU FTA (Vietnam-Eurasia Free Trade Agreement), and the AEC (ASEAN Economic Community).
Although the TPP door is shut, others are still wide open. For example, there’s still the BTA (bilateral trade agreement) between Vietnam and the U.S. and more than 10 other FTAs that Vietnam signed or will sign with other partners (as a country or as a member of ASEAN), along with over 60 BITs (bilateral investment treaties) established with many countries around the world.
Stephen Thomas, the head of HR at VUS, has hired hundreds of teachers and has helped lead the school to its dominant position in the market, with 45,000 students attending the English Centre’s classes.
He had a sobering message about future of English education in 2017:
"The strong will only get stronger"
As giants like VUS, Wall Street English, ILA and others invest more capital and improve their educational technology, the weaker players – the smaller and even medium-sized schools – will die out. Or, at least, in Stephen’s words, the growth of these businesses will be highly uneven.
Credit: flickr - woodleywonderworks
The niche players who understand their market (like Wall Street English) will do well in 2017 and beyond. For young teams interested in starting a business in English education, the landscape will prove to be much more dangerous than before.
For those schools that can afford it, more tech will be present in the classroom. At VUS, classes with iPads for every student have proven to be highly interactive and effective. Wall Street English will be coming out with a sitcom based in New York City to help its students learn through entertainment.
For teachers, more jobs will be available in the upcoming year than ever before. However, the requirements will be stricter, as many schools are now starting to look down on online teaching certifications. Those with the right qualifications (and not necessarily with years of experience) will find plenty of opportunities – meaning a four-year undergraduate degree and an in-class certification. Gone are the days when simply speaking English got you a job.
President of Victoria Healthcare Vietnam Dr. Mason Cobb gave us some candid thoughts on what will go down in the healthcare industry in Ho Chi Minh City in 2017. He gave us two perspectives: “fortunately”, and “unfortunately”.
“Fortunately, the powers that be are more aware of the private sector being indispensable to meet rising healthcare needs, and there is increasing awareness of the need for private clinics to succeed as businesses. Unfortunately, the corruption is likely to continue, restraining progress in easing hyper-regulation, and thus impeding sustained growth.
Fortunately, there will be more investment in healthcare, which will bring about more quality and better service and accessibility. Unfortunately, the public sector may not improve much, due to restraints on public investment, continuing overcrowding and associated customer service deficiencies.
Unfortunately, private hospitals will still be at excess capacity, but fortunately the trend toward using them will continue. We will see more clinics open or existing ones improve their facilities, but perhaps slowly. Overall, private clinics and hospitals will continue to grow and improve, offering good alternatives to state hospitals for better service and care...fortunately.”
Dr. Mason is currently preparing for the Q1 2017 opening of the new Victoria Healthcare clinic at 20-22 Dinh Tien Hoang, D1.
We got in touch with Clement, a researcher at PADDI, a French-based urban development center in Ho Chi Minh City. PADDI works closely with the local government to help projects related to transportation and infrastructure. Clement had some interesting predictions for 2017.
“For the immediate future, it’s just small-scale operations,” he commented. Completions will include the Pham Van Dong road near the airport and the road system along the Thu Thiem peninsula.
As for more game-changing projects such as the ongoing improvement to the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) and the metro, these will be making big strides in 2017. Unfortunately, no metro lines will open, but the above-ground support structure should be finished 2018/2019, so we’ll see veritable progress this year. Elevated roads will also likely begin construction – these will be similar to those already in Hanoi.
One big drawback of the improved road system will be the increase in the number of cars, which of course ramps up pollution and congestion. While extended roadways and new paths are temporary patches, a complete metro system will vastly improve the suffocating traffic.
A new fleet of buses is slowly emerging on the streets of Saigon, a project initiated several years ago to slowly replace the privately-owned vehicles currently contracted for public transportation. The new buses are more environmentally friendly since they use natural gas.
We spoke with Giovanni Parrella, the Executive Chef of The Reverie Saigon, to pick his brain about what the next year would mean for Vietnam’s culinary scene. He had one word for us: organic. He’s already seen the start of the trend this year, and he only expects it to increase in the coming months. Both at home and in his restaurant, he’s noticed clients from Vietnam and other countries clamouring for more organic options.
While Chef Parrella is perfectly happy to give his customers the best organic foods he can find, his only worry is authenticity. Based on what he knows about the farming practices in Vietnam, he’s not sure he’ll be able to trust that what’s labelled “organic” in a store or at a market actually came from an organic source. So far, however, he’s been pleased with the availability. For his diners at R&J, he prefers to source his organic ingredients from a grower in Da Lat. He suspects that choice and availability will only increase in the near future.
Along with this proclivity for organic food comes another, larger food trend: an interest in healthy foods. He told us that he’s noticed people nowadays are much more aware of the potential harm toxins and artificial ingredients can do to a person’s health. With many consumers making a push towards healthy grains and well-sourced meats, Parrella is confident that the market will respond by giving the customer what it wants.
This coincides well with the predictions of Asif Haneef Mehrudeen, the mastermind behind San Fu Lou and Sorae. He posited that residents are more responsive to the quality of the food they eat these days, which may cancel out the need for many lower-end eateries less concerned with hygiene, quality ingredients, image or novelty. Asif said have likely over half of the lower quality eateries will close down in the next few years.