HANOI, Vietnam -- The communist government plans to send 100,000 guest workers to oil-rich Qatar over the next three years, expanding its migrant labor program in the Middle East, state media said Saturday.
The two countries' labor ministers signed an agreement on the program in Hanoi on Friday after Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung visited the Gulf emirate in mid-December, the Vietnam News daily reported.
Vietnam last year sent 85,000 workers abroad -- mostly to Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea, and other Asian countries -- generating income and reducing unemployment at home, where 1.5 million people enter the job market every year.
About 10,000 Vietnamese already work in Qatar, says Vietnam's government, which sees the Middle East, including the oil and gas-rich Gulf states, as a promising growth market for its labor exports.
Vietnam has set a target of sending 100,000 workers abroad every year by 2010, according to the Department of Management of Overseas Labourers.
Migration experts and state media have highlighted cases of exploitation of Vietnamese migrant workers who often have been trapped under harsh conditions in overseas jobs while struggling to repay large loans and air fares.
Labor Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Nhan told a workshop last week that Vietnam's labor exports will comply with international law, "protecting participants, especially the rights and interests of laborers," the Vietnam News reported.