Thu Trang traveled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in 2019, ecstatic to get a job at a factory. She worked eight-hour shifts and was guaranteed overtime pay, and the wages were nearly triple what she had made as a farmer back home.
But during a Covid-19 outbreak this summer, the factory where she worked making Adidas, Converse and New Balance shoes virtually shut down. She and her co-workers were forced to live in a cramped apartment for nearly three months, subsisting on a diet of rice and soy sauce. In October, when restrictions loosened as global supply chain issues surged, Thu Trang decided she would pack up and return to her home province, Tra Vinh.
Her manager promised her higher wages, but she didn’t bother to find out how much.
“Even if the company doubles or triples our wages, I insist on moving back home,” said Thu Trang, who asked to be identified only by her first name because she feared retribution from her company and the government. “Ho Chi Minh City was once a destination where we sought our future, but this is no longer a safe place.”
Just last year, Vietnam’s coronavirus controls were lauded by health officials around the world. The country was so successful that it achieved the highest economic growth in Asia last year, at 2.9 percent. That outlook has dimmed: Workers have fled their factories, managers are struggling to get them back, and economists are forecasting that a full recovery in output won’t come until next year.
monthslong factory shutdowns in the Southeast Asian country. It could mean a longer wait for Nike sneakers, Lululemon yoga pants and Under Armour tank tops before the holidays. Several American retailers have already switched to suppliers in China to ease the crunch.
Patagonia and other brands.
Ms. Doan said that when the government imposed coronavirus restrictions, she went days without food and received only about $130 for August and September from local authorities. The subsidy was not enough for her to pay rent. She said she was waiting for the company to approve her resignation.
“My trust in the authorities has vanished,” she said. “They failed to control the pandemic effectively, causing many to die from infection and to live in hunger.”