Vietnam is one of the more popular expat destinations in Southeast Asia. Foreigners relocating to Vietnam are met with bustling cities, fascinating culture, diverse and delicious food scene, quality lifestyle on a budget, and a good number of well-paying jobs, among other things. The country is also generally safe from violent crime and only petty crimes are an issue. Outside of the large cities, there are cool mountainside cities, stunning beach towns, varied landscapes, and favourable weather to enjoy it all. Before relocating to this amazing country, it’s a good idea to know the salaries offered and see whether they can afford you a decent lifestyle.
What is the average salary in Vietnam? A person working in this country typically earns a gross salary of $750/month, $8,995/year, or $4.32 an hour. The average take-home salary (net) is $386/month. However, salaries differ significantly depending on several factors, which I’ll discuss later on. Keep in mind that the currency used in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong (VND), which equals 0.000043 US dollars (USD) as of December 10, 2019.
Vietnam has been experiencing great economic growth in recent years, which has and is attracting many expats and investors. With an ever-expanding economy, job opportunities for foreign workers in this country are also growing. However, the Vietnamese labour market is not particularly open to foreign workers, given the high costs that come with hiring a foreigner. Also, foreign workers can only be recruited if the skills required for specific jobs are not available locally. That being said, it’s still possible for you to find a job here with the right skill set and good academic credits. Given how challenging moving abroad can be, I’ve compiled all the relevant information about living and working in Vietnam to help you make informed decisions. Let’s get started:
Average Salary in Vietnam
Although the national average salary is a great guide, it’s important to note that wages and salaries in this country are very dissimilar across professions. Here’s a look at the average monthly salary of common occupations in Vietnam:
- CEO – $1,635
- Pilot – $912
- HR manager – $1,011
- Software developer – $677
- Dentist – $1,796
- Engineer – $702
- Secretary – $415
- Accountant – $492
- Waiter/waitress – $
- Lawyer – $1,091
- General Manager – $1,313
- Architect – $702
- Travel agent – $622
- Journalist – $737
- Sales representative – $460
- Teacher – $566
- Computer technician– $577
Salaries and wages also vary between state-owned and private companies. Employees of state-owned enterprises (SOE) generally make less than their private counterparts. Their salaries usually equal a 1/3 or 1/5 of what workers in the private sectors in the same posts earn. The good news is governmental organisations usually offer great employee benefits like free housing, which go a long way into reducing the cost of living.
Additionally, wages are distinguished between urban and rural areas. Major FDI destinations in Vietnam continue to offer much higher remuneration compared to the rest of the country. These regions include Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Bac Ninh provinces, which have average monthly salaries of $444, $421, $393, and $383 respectively. On the other hand, the lowest salaries are found in Bac Lieu, Dien Bien, and Son La Province at an average of $178, $184, and $195 per month respectively.
Different economic sectors also offer different salaries. The service industry has the highest average monthly income at $402. Salaries for employees in the industrial, IT, and construction sectors have also experienced significant growth. Fishery, agriculture, and forestry are some of the lowest-paying sectors with an average income of $225/month.
Last, but not least, salaries and wages are also determined by academic qualifications and skills. Unskilled workers tend to earn the minimum wage. You can expect to earn about $10,000 a year with a Bachelor’s degree; the number doubles with a master’s degree.
All things considered, salaries and wages in this country are among the lowest in the Asia-Pacific region. Even so, you can afford a decent lifestyle on an average expat salary, given the low cost of living.
Job opportunities for foreign workers in Vietnam
The Vietnamese economy is in the process of liberalisation and several companies specialising in different sectors have been set up here. Since this economy mostly relies on the export of goods, your chances of finding work in this booming industry are quite high. The job market is also dominated by the services, agricultural and manufacturing sectors. That being said, teaching English remains the one ubiquitous field with very high demand and generous pay. While English is widely spoken, learning to speak basic Vietnamese will make your social interactions much easier.
Any foreigner wishing to work in Vietnam must have a work permit. This can be done either within the country or from abroad with the help of a contracted visa agency or employer. You’ll need proof of employment with a Vietnamese company when applying for a work permit, among other documents. There are, however, a few groups of expatriates who don’t need a work permit to work in Vietnam. Be sure to check out if you fall in any of the categories. It’s also important to note that Vietnamese work permits are specifically approved for individual cities.
Vietnam Average Household Income
The living standards of Vietnamese households have improved over the past couple of years thanks to the development of social-economic conditions. Household income has been rising steadily, although there’s still some disparity in the income of urban and rural households. In urban areas, households with an average income under 3,120,000 VND ($135) per month are regarded as poor households. On the other hand, those in rural areas with an average income under 2,400,000 VND ($103.6) are regarded as poor.
Minimum Wage in Vietnam
Like several other countries, Vietnam has a government-mandated minimum wage, which is set through collective agreements between the National Wage Council, Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (employees’ representatives), and Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (representing the employers). Vietnam has set four different minimum wage levels for four different regions to reflect each area’s cost of living.
In 2019, all parties agreed to increase the minimum wages by an average of 5.3% from the previous year’s values. And now, the minimum wages are set to rise by approximately 5.7% as from January 2020 as shown below:
|The region||Minimum wage/month (2019)||Minimum wage/month (2020)|
|1||4,180,000 VND (US$ 180)||4,420,000 VND ($190.82)|
|2||3,710,000 VND (US$ 159)||3,920,000 VND ($169.24)|
|3||3,250,000 VND (US$ 140)||3,430,000 VND ($148.08)|
|4||2,920,000 VND (US$ 125)||3,070,000 VND ($132.54)|
Region 1 covers the urban areas of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
Region 2 covers the rural areas of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as Hai Phong, Can Tho, and Da Nang
Region 3 includes provisional cities, as well as the districts of Bac Ninh and Bac Giang.
Region 4 includes all the remaining localities.
The Vietnamese minimum wages only apply to workers in normal working conditions that perform the most basic work. As such, those who work overtime should be compensated for those extra hours based on the current hourly rates, while those who work night shifts should receive at least 30% higher than the minimum rates. Finally, employees who have passed vocational training courses should be paid at least 7% higher than the minimum wage rates.
Wages in this country are generally rising faster than other Asian countries but still remain among the lowest. The current minimum wages can only meet 95% of the minimum living standards of workers and their families, which has pushed employees to take on overtime work. But, with the expected 5.5% increase in 2020, the new wages are expected to meet 100% of the minimum living standards.
Average Salary in Hanoi
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam, as well as a fantastic gateway city. It’s the nation’s centre of commerce with no shortage of both social and professional connections. The city attracts over 20,000 expatriates every year and is quickly becoming a professional’s paradise. The tech and start-up scenes are thriving, thereby paving way for a more innovative and modern Hanoi with a wide variety of job opportunities for foreigners and locals alike. Finding a job in this city has never been easier; so, how much should you expect to make working here?
Well, salaries in this city are amongst the highest in Vietnam at about 8% more than those of the country as a whole. They range from a minimum of $109.89/month to a maximum of $3,595/month. The average salary in Hanoi currently stands at $812/month or $9,745/year for salaried jobs and $4.68 an hour for hourly jobs. Keep in mind that these figures are gross salaries, meaning the take-home pay after tax and social security contributions (social, health, and unemployment insurance) will be lower –an average of $406/month.
Economic and job outlook
Hanoi is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world with a thriving economy and growing development. The services and agricultural sectors are improving extensively and the number of businesses taking part in foreign trade is also increasing. Thousands of major local companies and multinational corporations have set up shop in the capital, thereby providing all kinds of job opportunities for residents. There’s also the obvious choice of teaching English.
Understanding the basic Vietnamese labour laws is vital to protecting yourself –whether as an employee or an employer. To get you started, normal working hours must not exceed 48 hours in a week or 10 hours a day. Employees are also entitled to 12 days of paid annual leave, from 30 days of sick leave per year, and 6 months of paid maternity leave.
Cost Of Living in Vietnam
The overall cost of living in Vietnam is relatively cheap. Here’s a look at the average costs of common household expenses in Vietnam:
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to housing options, especially in major cities. If your budget only allows for very basic accommodation, you can go for flat-sharing, which costs as low as $50-150/month to rent. A nice one-bedroom apartment will cost an average of $261/month in the city centres and $393/month in the outskirts. There are also luxury condos that go from $800/month. Alternatively, you can buy a house in Vietnam –either cash or on credit with the help of a Vietnamese mortgage.
Food in this country is very cheap. Monthly groceries will cost you $20-40. If you choose to eat out, you can get a meal for as low as $1.00 from street vendors. An average Vietnamese meal in a cheap restaurant will cost you $2.16, while a combo meal at a fast-food joint goes for $4.31.
Motorbikes are the most common mode of transport in Vietnam. You can get a second-hand bike for $250-350 or rent for about $40/month with a deposit of $200. Gasoline costs about $0.87/litre. Other options available include metered taxis, which start at $0.50 with an additional $0.52/km; ride-sharing apps such as Grab and Uber; as well as buses to explore neighbouring cities and countries.
You’ll also need to budget for utilities, clothing, entertainment, childcare, health insurance, education, and much more, depending on your needs. All these costs will depend on where you live and the kind of lifestyle you choose to adopt. Given that most expatriates live in major cities, those on the cheap end can spend about $500/month with an average family spending $1,625/month (without rent/mortgage payments). On the other far end, a monthly budget of $3,000-4,000 can afford you top-end luxury with a large, furnished home, eating at 5-star restaurants, and taking frequent trips across Vietnam.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.