San Diego International Law Journal

Document Type



Vietnam (officially, the “Socialist Republic of Vietnam”) is rapidly transitioning economically, in large part due to pro-trade policies that have attracted international capital. A necessary component for Vietnam to further integrate into the world economy is to develop a system of industrial relations that will ensure industrial stability and reassure international manufacturers that there is no risk of embarrassment resulting from revelations of brutal or unsafe working conditions. Positive signs for rapid labor reform were visible as recently as early 2016 with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”), a trade agreement intended to integrate trade among twelve countries (including Vietnam), which would have set international benchmarks and a fixed deadline for labor reform.

Notwithstanding the death of the TPP, labor reform in Vietnam continues, as there is currently a vigorous debate within the country over which direction reform should take. Thanks to labor scholars such as Cynthia Estlund, international labor scholars have a fairly decent idea about the progress and direction of labor law reform in China; however, this is not true for Vietnam, which is poised to become Southeast Asia’s next economic powerhouse. The purpose of this article is to fill this gap.

Part II of this article describes how the ILO and the TPP jump-started the most recent wave of labor reform in Vietnam. Part III describes the existing labor regime in Vietnam. Part IV analyzes Vietnamese labor law, specifically as compared to the ILO norms, and explains that although Vietnam has made rapid and radical progress over the last two decades, there is still room for significant improvement. Part V describes and evaluates current proposals for reform. Part VI provides a conclusion of the issues discussed.