Ethics is a broad term. Different people have different definitions of ethics. Ethics are moral principles that we need to follow so that our actions can benefit society as a whole. Ethical standards vary from country to country, especially in the area of employment. The right way of doing business in one country can be different from the others. Companies in developing countries have different ethical standards from companies in developed countries. This fact can be seen clearly through the example of Vietnam, and the U.S. Vietnam is a developing country. Its economy has been developing rapidly since the country reunited in 1975. Although there are a lot of improvements in ethical standards in employment, many ethical issues still exist and need to be solved by companies in Vietnam. On the other hand, the American economy is the largest in the world. People living in the U.S. come from different backgrounds. It is not surprising that ethical standards in the U.S. will be very different from ethical standards in Vietnam. There are many differences in ethical standards in the area of employment between Vietnam and the U.S. These differences can be narrowed down to three main ones: nepotism, gender discrimination, and child labor. This post helps shed light on each of these three differences in the following paragraphs.
Ethical Standard: Differences in Nepotism
The first main difference in ethical standards in the area of employment between Vietnam and the U.S. is nepotism. Business owners in Vietnam prefer to appoint members of their families to the highest positions rather than outsiders. The reasons why business owners in Vietnam have behaved in this way can be explained by looking back at the way the Vietnam economy developed. The Vietnam securities market officially started to operate in July 2000. Compared to the U.S., which had its first securities market back in 1792, the securities market in Vietnam is still young. Before the Vietnam securities market came to existence, companies in Vietnam were private companies. They belonged to the entire families. There were many cases when the father got old; he gave his company to his children. It continued to be this way for many generations. The problem is when the stock market formed, family companies no longer belong to their own families. Outside investors put their money in these companies. Logically, these outside investors must have some control over the companies in which they have invested. However, business owners do not want this to happen. The thoughts that their companies have to be owned by their families still exist. They tend to avoid hiring new people into managing positions. They try to put their children or their relatives on the board of directors instead. As a result, these companies could not compete with foreign companies.
In the U.S., nepotism is a controversial issue concerning ethical standards. Some people believe nepotism is unethical. After all, a vacant position should be given to a person because he is qualified for the job, not because that person has some kind of connections to the business owners. Other people disagree. They think nepotism is unavoidable and should not be criticized. Either way, American people have a different perspective on nepotism than Vietnamese people. In Vietnam, the majority of the population see nepotism as a regular thing. It would be abnormal to Vietnamese people if nepotism in the area of employment does not exist. As a result, business owners in Vietnam often do not face any public reaction when they hire their family members, even if it is evident that the family members cannot handle the job successfully.
Unlike nepotism in Vietnam, nepotism in the U.S. usually exists in small companies that belong to families. In Vietnam, nepotism can be found in any business, whether they are small companies or big ones. Another difference that can be seen between nepotism in Vietnam and nepotism in the U.S. is the way business owners put their family members in superior positions. In Vietnam, business owners can just give their sons or grandsons high positions. They are not afraid of anything when doing this. Other people, especially employees in these companies, do not dare to say a thing. The employees are worried that they can be fired if they express their concerns. After all, they think that it is not their company and they are there to earn a living. This is why nepotism is one of the reasons that make Vietnam businesses less competitive than other foreign companies. Business owners in the U.S. are more careful when they hire members of their families, especially if the vacant job is advertised publicly. Business owners can be sued for discrimination if the family member is less qualified for the job than another applicant. If that applicant is a female, they can be sued for sexual discrimination.
Nepotism cannot be avoided totally. However, nepotism in the area of employment in Vietnam seems to be more spread out and harder to control than nepotism in the U.S. because of cultural differences and the way the government handles the situation.
Ethical Standard: Differences in Gender Discrimination
The next big difference is gender discrimination. In Vietnamese culture, parents always prefer boys to girls. For Vietnamese people, girls are only good at being a housewife. This is the reason why girls often did not receive any education in the past. Nowadays, the situation has improved. Girls are becoming more educated. As a result, the number of women entering the workforce has increased dramatically. However, gender equality and discrimination in the area of employment are still prevalent.
In Vietnam, gender discrimination tends to happen more in some industries than in others. This trend often leads to poor ethical standards. For example, if a woman wants to find a job to work as an engineer, the chance that she can get the job is lower than a man who is looking for the same position. The stereotype jobs for Vietnamese women are related to housewife’s roles, such as tailors, cooks, kindergarten teachers, etc. Men are linked with the jobs that required intelligence and strength, such as engineers, programmers, architects, etc. Companies in these industries tend to refuse women when they apply for jobs. The problem is the whole society supports this type of discrimination. As discussed above, women cannot work in certain industries due to Vietnam’s history and culture. So if, for example, an architecture firm refuses to hire a female job seeker, everyone accepts it, and they do not want to do anything about it, including the government. This also happens to men. Vietnam’s society often does not accept if men do jobs that are supposed to belong to women. For example, if a man applies for a job as a kindergarten teacher, he is unlikely to get the job. The company will be likely to refuse him, and even if the company approves his application, his family and friends will not accept this fact. He will be seen as a weak man.
Women are also linked to lower-paid jobs, such as workers (especially in garment factories). The fact is that women often earn less than men, even if they work for the same positions. Many people in Vietnam just think that it is natural for a woman to make less than a man. Although Vietnam has laws requiring that women should have the same rights as men in the workplace, no one enforces these laws. Companies still pay women less than men, and most people in Vietnam just accept this fact.
Women in Vietnam also have less chance than men to be appointed to high positions in the company. This is because there are specific characteristics that Vietnamese people believe have to belong to women, such as hard-working, enduring, humble, etc. With these characteristics, women can only handle low positions. Only men can qualify for high places. They possess characteristics that are suitable to be leaders, such as: strong-minded and determined. Businesses in Vietnam are greatly influenced by Vietnamese culture. Companies often give men higher positions, although they are not necessarily better than women.
In America, gender discrimination still exists. Although federal laws have prohibited gender discrimination, even now, it happens consistently. The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) bans companies from discriminating against applicants and employees based on their gender, race, religion, etc. Another federal law, the Equal Pay Act (EPA), also forbids gender discrimination related to unequal pay for “substantially equal” work. Despite these federal laws, forty-six percent of women think they have faced disadvantages in the workplace because of their gender. Compared to companies in Vietnam, companies in the U.S. also prefer men to women, especially small companies. However, in most cases, gender discriminations in the U.S. are subtle.
The difference in gender discrimination between Vietnam and the U.S. is small. Discrimination is still happening in both countries. That being said, gender discrimination in Vietnam tends to be more conspicuous than gender discrimination in the U.S. It is because the way Vietnamese people think is still in favor of men. The women’s role in Vietnam’s society is believed to be not as important as men’s roles. Companies can choose to hire a male over a female applicant because he is a male, without facing any reaction from the government and society. Women’s jobs are women’s jobs. Men’s roles are men’s jobs. In Vietnamese people’s mind, a man cannot do a woman’s job and vice versa. On the other hand, although gender discrimination still exists in the U.S., women and, in some cases, men are protecting better against it. A person in the U.S. can sue a company if they have enough evidence showing that they have experienced gender discrimination. This person could not do this if he were in Vietnam. For example, in 1971, Martin Marietta Corporation was sued by Ida Phillips, a mother who applied for a job and was rejected. The evidence showed that the company refused to employ female job seekers with preschool-age children but hired male applicants who had preschool-age children. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the company was liable to its female staff members because the federal Civil Rights Act (Title VII) prohibits companies from using different policies for men and women.
It can be seen clearly that gender discrimination in Vietnam is more conspicuous. Generally, companies in Vietnam do not have to be afraid of being liable for their policy, which discriminates against women. It is a whole different story in the U.S. Companies in the U.S. can be responsible for their actions. As a result, U.S. companies are more careful when they want to discriminate against their employees because of the employees’ gender.
Ethical Standard: Differences in Child Labor
The final main difference in ethical standards in the area of employment between Vietnam and the U.S. is child labor. Vietnam is still a developing country. There are many families in Vietnam are living in poverty, especially in the countryside. Not only that, those families usually have a lot of children. It is common for a family to have more than three children. Thus, children born in these families have to work while they are young to support their families. The situation gets worst if the children are from an ethnic minority. Parents often send their kids to nearby factories, notably garment factories, to earn some money. The owners of these factories know that these children are underage, but they still hire them. The most apparent reason is profit. Factory owners have paid these children a lot less than adults. The trouble is nobody cares about this situation. The parents of the children do not care. They are just happy because their kids are making money. The factory owners are also pleased because they can save their money on labor. The government is just so busy with other things that it does not have enough time to pay attention to these little kids.
The situation remains the same in big cities in Vietnam. In urban areas, many companies are hiring children as part of their workforce. These children often come from the countryside. Because wages in big cities are usually higher than in rural areas, low-income families often send their kids to the cities to work, especially female children. In Vietnam, most families still prefer boys over girls. Many Vietnamese people still think that girls do not need to study much. This is why many families in rural areas send their female children to big cities to work. The children working in these factories are being poorly treated. In one factory raided by Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, an Australian organization that helps children in crisis, about twenty children are staying and working in a small room with the machines. The youngest was eleven, and most of the children were from ethnic minorities. The factory owner only allowed the children to go to the bathroom for eight minutes a day to take a shower, brush their teeth, and go to the toilet.
In America, the main federal law regulating child labor is the Fair Labor Standards Act. For non-agricultural jobs, companies cannot hire children under twelve. Children between twelve and sixteen may only be allowed to work in some situations during limited hours, and children between sixteen and eighteen may be hired in riskless positions for unlimited hours. Industries that employ the most children are the fast-food, retail, garment, and agricultural sectors. These regulations improve ethical standards in the U.S.
Compared to child labor in the U.S., child labor in Vietnam can happen in all industries. The reason is although Vietnam has laws and regulations about child labor, it just does not enforce them enough. Children in Vietnam are not being protected as much as they are in the U.S. In America, companies are more careful when they use child labor, even if using child labor does not take place in the U.S. In 2012, The Louisiana Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System sued Hersey, the largest chocolatier in North America, to a Delaware court, claiming that Hersey knew about the company’s suppliers illegally hired child labor in West Africa to pick and gather cocoa beans. The court finally dismissed the case, stating that the plaintiff did not have enough evidence to prove that Hersey had used child labor to harvest cocoa beans.
The industries in the U.S. that hire most children are the ones that do not receive much attention from law enforcement. One report showed that inspectors take very little time (around five percent of their time) to examine child labor issues. Once a regular company is inspected, it would be approximately fifty years for that company to be investigated again.
Another difference in child labor between Vietnam and the U.S. is where the children come from. In Vietnam, child labor often happens among children from ethnic minorities or the countryside. Factories built in the countryside often hire these children to work without any problems. These children can also be sent to big cities by their families to work for small-size companies in the hope of a higher salary. While in the U.S., companies often hire children of immigrant families. Although the origins of the children in the U.S. and Vietnam are different, they all share a common thing, that is, their families are living in poverty, and they have to work hard to support their families. Business owners are taking advantage of them, and they only want to exploit these poor children as much as possible.
It can easily be seen that child labor is still happening both in Vietnam and the U.S. However, the situation is much worse in Vietnam due to the lack of laws and regulations. Business owners are only thinking about profits. They do not pay much attention to ethical issues until the government tells them to do so.
The three main differences in ethical standards in the area of employment between Vietnam and the U.S. are nepotism, gender discrimination, and child labor. The ethical standards of employment in Vietnam mainly derive from its culture. Vietnamese people think that money and property of parents should be left to their children when the parents get old (nepotism). They also believe that Vietnam’s society appreciates men more than women in many fields (gender discrimination), or families in Vietnam tend to have many kids even though they are living in poverty. They prefer boys to girls (child labor). Consequently, businesses in Vietnam act accordingly to the way Vietnamese people think when they hire new employees or discharge their current ones. The three main problems discussed in this essay exist both in Vietnam and the U.S. However, these three ethical problems are more rampant in Vietnam because Vietnam society is taking the company’s sides. Hopefully, Vietnam’s community will change accordingly with its economy, and these ethical issues will be put under control by the government in a better way.