The end of the year is often packed with joyful get-togethers. However, some unthoughtful questions can make all good things go sour. “Why are you still doing this job?” is one of the most frequently asked — and certainly one of the most hurtful — during a period when you’re supposed to celebrate achievements and success. It can trigger mixed feelings and deep life reflection.
Taking the risk, I asked some friends in my circle the question out of curiosity. Interestingly, most of their answers point to one thing in common: the 13th-month salary.
It’s an additional payment to employees at the end of the year according to different terms of laws and employment contracts, and it is often equivalent to a one-month basic salary for those who have worked at least one full year. The end-of-year bonus policy varies from company to company and from country to country.
This article will highlight some interesting perspectives centering on the question, “What does the 13th-month bonus mean to you?”
*Names have been changed for their privacy.
A reward for your efforts
“The 13th-month bonus doesn’t affect my work performance because I always strive as hard as possible. Honestly, my current job is not necessarily my dream one, but it has taught me many worthwhile lessons, and I appreciate it.
The bonus is considered a reward for my dedication and contribution throughout the year, so I look forward to it. I will shop with the money and save the rest for my projects. From my perspective, the 13th-month pay is an additional means to make myself happy,” said 22-year-old Ha.
A compensatory payment for your suffering at work
“Contrary to popular belief, the 13th-month salary is not necessarily a bonus. By definition, a bonus is a performance-based monetary reward, which varies depending on your level of performance. However, the 13th-month pay is often fixed. It is more like an extra payment in recognition of your efforts than a bonus,” shared 26-year-old Kien.
Meanwhile, Lan called it compensation. She has worked overtime without pay while earning an average-level salary and having no allowances. Besides, she must pay for any expenses related to her work equipment and mental health issues at the workplace out of her pocket.
“I seem to be negative, but the truth is, you never know what happens in the real world. A friend of mine earns more than ten million dong a month, but quite an amount is paid for her psychotherapy,” said Lan.
Some of her friends chose to quit their jobs only less than a month before they were supposed to receive their 13th-month pay. The reason isn’t hard to fathom. From their perspectives, it is not worth the wait, considering the overwhelming pressures at work.
Even worse, some people get laid off suddenly. A Ho Chi Minh city-based company recently announced plans to lay off thousands of its employees at the end of this year. While they’re bound to receive the bonus, it’s most likely their last pay before they struggle to find another livelihood.
It’s impossible to tell how long one stays at a job. Some try to make each day count, while others go the extra mile to work through an entire year. Regardless of the duration, their efforts and contributions should be appreciated.
“Not long ago, a cousin’s message in my extended family group chat hit me that it was already December. He texted, “Have you received your Tet bonus yet? I already have.” Perhaps he just wanted to share the good news, but I couldn’t help but feel sad.
I have no 13th-month pay or year-end bonus because I am pursuing a freelancing career. I cheer myself up that it is also the case for other freelancers and that having no 13th-month bonus is not a big deal compared to the 15th or 16th-month salary I can earn in the long run,” said 32-year-old Huyen.
Freelancing has become a popular career choice among young workers. This concept, however, began centuries ago. Previous generations, be they farmers or small business owners, have managed to pay for their salaries in one way or another. The more they work, the more they can earn, but they also have no 13th-month bonuses.
Long story short, the extra-month salary only exists in a freelancer’s fantasy.
Besides freelancers, some full-time employees are not entitled to a 13th-month pay because their contracts indicate so. In reality, the extra-month bonus is not mandatory in Vietnam, unlike other countries such as India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Mexico.
The 13th-month bonus is a sensitive topic at the turn of the New Year. Last year, a Hue-based teacher was disciplined by his school administrators for posting a video clip praying for the 13th-month salary on Facebook. The whole event triggered a heated debate among netizens. But more interestingly, the video spotlighted the underlying salary gap in different jobs and industries.
A means of giving
Each person looks at the year-end bonus from a different perspective. Instead of focusing on how much they will receive, some employees think of the extra money as a means of giving.
“I started donating a million dong a month to an education promotion fund and a food fund for people in need around two years ago. Some countries pay the 13th-month salary in part every month instead of in full at the end of the year. If this were the case in Vietnam, my extra-month bonuses of the last two years would be donated to charity,” said 30-year-old Khanh.
It is not common practice for people to donate money every month, as in the case of Khanh, as not everyone can afford it. Some friends question his cause, but for him, kindness simply comes from the desire to make himself happy.
“I do not know how the recipients feel, but I find it rewarding. I donate the money just because I want to. I don’t follow any rules; I just give because it makes me feel good.”
As for Hung, his 13th-month bonus is given to his mother. “No choice is necessarily better than the other. It’s better to do what feels right for you.”
So, what does the 13th salary mean to you?