Reevaluating the Role of University Degrees in Financial Success
Nguyen Hien, a university graduate, invested around 400 million VND ($16,887) in tuition and expenses to complete her degree. However, her first job paid only 6 million VND per month, leaving her unable to cover her bills. Frustrated, she left her desk job and now works as a bartender during the day and a cocktail waitress at night, earning around 16 million VND per month. Hien confessed that she hasn’t revealed her true job to her parents, simply stating that she works in the food and beverage industry.
Hien’s experience is not uncommon among university graduates in Vietnam today. A recent report by the Ho Chi Minh City Center of Forecasting Manpower Needs and Labor Market Information revealed that less than 20% of job openings in HCMC require a university degree. However, around 85% of job seekers hold university degrees. Sectors such as tourism, information technology, textiles, marketing, and law have seen a decrease in labor demand, leaving many graduates on the verge of unemployment.
The limited opportunities for university graduates have led to a situation where highly educated individuals are now competing with non-degree holders for manual labor jobs. Nguyen Duy Khoa, a marketing graduate, expected his degree and three years of experience to secure him a good position. However, after months of unsuccessful job applications and interviews, he became disheartened. Despite performing well in interviews and meeting all requirements, Khoa received little to no response from companies, leaving him feeling rejected and discouraged.
To make ends meet, Khoa resorted to working as a moto courier for a ride-hailing app. However, the oversupply of drivers and intense competition have made it difficult to earn a stable income. The unemployment situation in HCMC is alarming, with an estimated 150,000 qualified individuals, including 46,000 university degree holders, seeking unemployment compensation in 2022.
Experts attribute this phenomenon to several factors, including inadequate investment in improving the quality of higher education in Vietnam. The fragmented governance of higher education institutions by separate government bodies further contributes to disparities in training quality among institutions. Experts suggest that the Ministry of Education and Training should prioritize investment in creating a high-quality domestic labor market that can compete globally and contribute to the country’s economy and social conditions.
In the meantime, graduates like Hien are forced to make career choices that are less than ideal. Hien acknowledges the challenges and risks associated with her current job as a night bar worker, which have taken a toll on her health. Despite these difficulties, she sees no alternative means of making a living and continues to persevere in her current employment.