Last year, Alex Minh Ngo, who describes himself as “a concerned observer of public services in Vietnam,” carried out an online survey of Vietnamese students and recent graduates of universities abroad. Of the 123 respondents, 80% were living abroad and 20% in Vietnam. Most had studied business, economics, or engineering. The survey was motivated by conversations in the Vietnamese higher education and business communities about education and pay.
From the students’ point of view, Vietnam lacks opportunities for rewarding work while companies abroad offer more competitive compensation and better opportunities for young people to develop their long-term careers. Human resource managers representing businesses in Vietnam cite lack of talent as a key barrier to their growth. The purpose of this study is to provide data to address core issues of availability of work opportunities for university-educated Vietnamese who have studied abroad, and to provide data points on expectations of young, educated Vietnamese. While there have been a number of surveys conducted for this purpose, most have been for private use. This report aims to share brief findings for public use and discussion.
Further study on this topic could help answer questions on the value workers place on career development. Follow up questions would include: how much would workers be willing to sacrifice in terms of pay for better career development, how much are salaries changing over time, and what are the expectations of students. Additional questions that would be interesting to ask are the relative values of university education in Vietnam versus abroad. An analogous study could look at the job prospects of students who did not receive education abroad, and perhaps compare the two groups.
This survey is a small step to show the difference in earning potential for a person if they choose to work in Vietnam versus abroad. Follow-up surveys would of course be useful to validate the results in this study.
Follow this link to download a PDF copy of the Vietnam Education and Labor Survey (106KB). Alex Ngo is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He currently lives in Hanoi, where he works as a consultant. Alex can be reached at alex.ngo AT post.harvard.edu.
MAA: Of course, under “Further Study,” many other factors, in addition to compensation, would have to be taken into consideration, including cost of living. A longitudinal study would be of great value in tracking a select group of Vietnamese who studied abroad and either returned home or remained overseas.