Tue, Jun 12, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Bountiful South: Beauty without borders

By Liam Gibson  /  Contributing reporter

Tran Thi Phuong Lien applies lotion to her client’s face at her salon in Taoyuan City Wednesday last week. After joining Chlitina in 2016, she will open her second store in her hometown of Cen Tho in Vietnam this year.

Photo Courtesy of Chlitina

When Nguyen Thi Bich Lieu left Vietnam 18 years ago to join her husband and start a new life in Taichung, she never imagined that she’d one day return to manage four stores for Taiwan’s biggest skincare brand, Chlitina, part of the company’s push into Southeast Asia.

What’s more, since joining Chlitina four years ago, Nguyen has purchased two properties, attaining a level of economic mobility that remains out of reach for many new migrants.

“I don’t know where I’d be without this opportunity,” she says.

Finding meaningful and secure work in their new home country is an ongoing challenge for many of Taiwan’s Vietnamese migrant spouses, which now number over 100,000. Yet with companies like Chlitina, whose sales team is 10 percent Vietnamese, now placing the country as a focal point in their southward expansion plans, there are growing opportunities for this community to leverage their cultural and linguistic background to launch new careers, achieving economic and social mobility.

As more Taiwanese companies expand into Southeast Asian markets, unique work opportunities for migrant spouses are on the rise. To meet the needs of industry as well as individuals, more must be done to remove existing obstacles to migrant spouses’ economic mobility, especially in education. While many policies have focused on the development of their offspring, it is crucial not to overlook the contribution migrant spouses themselves can make to not only the New Southbound Policy but the nation’s broader economy.

‘FOLLOW HER OWN PATH’

While Nguyen, and her colleague Tran Thi Phuong Lien, say that economic factors were a strong motivation for migrating to Taiwan, they spent many years working low-paid labor intensive jobs before they found better opportunities.

From a family of five children, Nguyen says she remitted most of her salary from her first job in an assembly line to get her siblings through school.

Tran, who also migrated to Taiwan in 2000, says she used to sweep floors for a living which damaged her skin and took a toll on her health.

“I wanted to look after my looks and find my own direction and joining Chlitina allowed me to do both of those things,” Tran says.

“I didn’t want to simply give up on myself and stay at home,” Nguyen said. “Every woman ought to be empowered to follow her own path, and feel beautiful doing so.”

Nguyen and Tran are a part of a first wave of Vietnamese employees now setting up stores across their home country, part of Chlitina general manager Kao Shou-kang’s (高壽康) strategy for the company’s Southeast Asian expansion.

Kao says the Vietnamese employees are a unique asset for the company and will be indispensable to its growth in the region.

Kao adds that the company currently operates 10 salons in Hanoi, five in Ho Chi Minh City and five across other parts of the country, with more planned for the year ahead.

Nguyen and Tran both say that while a wide range of skincare products are available in Vietnam, many consumers don’t know proper application methods and often misuse them, leading to skin damage.

“Educating Vietnamese consumers is where we can make the biggest difference,” Tran says.

LEARN TO EARN

Tran says it is the training she has received from Chlitina that has equipped her with the skills needed for career advancement, something she says other Vietnamese spouses lack.

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