Consultancy for Rapid Assessment of Livelihood Opportunities and of Recent Returnees to Son La and Lao Cai provinces due to COVID-19

Terms of Reference


Rapid assessment of livelihood opportunities and of recent returnees to Son La and Lao Cai provinces due to COVID-19


Ha Noi, Son La and Lao Cai


December 2021 – February 2022


With more than 35 years of experience, Cowater International is Canada’s global leader in management consulting services specialising in international development. We have managed the implementation of over 2500 projects in more than 95 countries around the globe for clients such as DFID, DFAT Australia, the European Union, the World Bank and Global Affairs Canada. We work with governments, partner organisations, communities and civil society to design and implement sustainable solutions that generate lasting social, economic and environmental impacts. Our adaptive approach to management has led to our award-winning work and recognition as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies from 2017 to 2021.

GREAT’s Program

GREAT is a flagship initiative of the Australian aid program. The Program promotes women’s economic empowerment (WEE) in the ethnically diverse north-west region of Vietnam. The primary beneficiaries are women living in the provinces of Son La and Lao Cai, while an overarching emphasis is placed on the inclusion of women from ethnic minority communities as these provinces are home to twelve and twenty-six ethnic groups respectively.

The objectives of the Aus4Equality|GREAT Program are:

  • Objective 1 – Empowering local women: Women living in local communities have increased capacity, space, and choices to beneficially engage with agriculture and tourism businesses.
  • Objective 2 – Inclusive businesses partnerships: Selected private sector actors within the agriculture and tourism sectors innovate to profitably and sustainably trade with more women entrepreneurs and operate in gender sensitive ways.
  • Objective 3 – Improving sector governance and policy: Government agencies reinforce policies, and enact plans, regulations and services that enable more inclusive socio-economic development.

Our approach to women’s economic empowerment uses a market systems development approach and focuses on:

  • Reach: Engaging women in all project activities and addressing barriers to participation.
  • Benefit: Improve women’s access to assets, financial services, and support services.
  • Empower: Strengthen the ability of women to make strategic life choices and put these into action.

The Program has a portfolio of approximately 50 partners to deliver results in 9 sub-sectors across agriculture and tourism in Lao Cai and Son La provinces. Currently GREAT is preparing for the second phase of the Program which will run for five years from July 2022 to June 2027, subject to the approval by the governments of Australia and Vietnam.

COVID 19 impact to unemployment

The fourth wave of COVID was far more severe than previous waves and has impacted key economic zones in the country. Many parts of the country introduced strict COVID-19 social distancing restrictions It is estimated that 19% of businesses temporarily stopped operating and downsized; 98% of employees in the tourism and service sectors lost their jobs; 78% of workers in the transport, footwear and textile industries have reduced hours, have been laid off or left their jobs; and 98% of aviation workers were temporarily laid off. Informal or poorly paid workers have generally been more impacted due to COVID-19.

According to General Statistics Office (GSO), in the third quarter of 2021 alone, more than 28.2 million people at labor ages were negatively affected by COVID-19. Of which, 4.7 million people lost their jobs, 14.7 million people had to temporarily stop/suspend production and business; . An estimated 18.9 million workers had their income reduced..

The average monthly income of employees in the third quarter of 2021 is VND 5.2 million, down VND 877,000 compared to the previous quarter and VND 603,000 lower than the same period last year.  The GSO estimated that about 1.3 million laborers had forced to return to their hometowns between July and September 2021.

Returnees to Son La and Lao Cai due to COVID

Son La and Lao Cai are two mountainous provinces in the Northwest with a large proportion of people of working age working outside the province. According to statistics from Son La DOLISA, by September 2021, 60,000 people out of the total 110,000 who worked outside their province have returned to their homes as a consequence of COVID. 80% of the returnees are of working age. Some districts have had a very high number of returnees such as Thuan Chau (12,000 people); Song Ma (8,000) and Phu Yen (5,000).

Similarly, about 13,000 out of estimated total of 26,000 people returned to their hometown in Lao Cai in the past few weeks. Muong Khuong, Bac Ha, Bao Yen and Bao Thang districts have high number of returnees. According to DOLISA Lao Cai, an estimated 50% of returnees are working in agriculture with the remainder unemployed or underemployed.

DOLISA and district authorities in the two provinces have had draft plans for supporting the large number of returnees to reintegrate socially and economically in very short period of time, whilst ensuring diseases control and prevention.  To provide relevant support to DOLISA and district authorities for returnees who can engage in the agriculture and tourism markets, GREAT is seeking support from suitably qualified consultants to conduct a rapid assessment of livelihood opportunities of recent returnees to Son La and Lao Cai provinces due to COVID-19


  • To assess the current situation of returned workers to Son la and Lao Cai due to COVID-19
  • To identify opportunities and needs for returned workers to reintegrate in economic activities locally and how this differs for women and men
  • To recommend to GREAT, DOLISA and district authorities, potential interventions to support returnees’ livelihoods by engaging in the tourism or agricultural sectors


  • What is the profile of returnees including age, ethnicity, education level and work history outside of their home province?
  • What was their previous annual income and living costs when they were away from home? What were the motivations for migrating initially?  
  • What were the main causes for them to return to the province/area?
  • What are their intermediate and medium-term livelihood plans? Eg.  paid employment, starting their own business or engaging in agriculture, tourism services or casual labor.
  • What have been their main challenges after returning, if any? How do these differ for women and men?
  • What are key livelihood opportunities for retunees locally, particularly in agriculture and tourism?
  • What is the readiness of returnees to start new livelihoods especially in agriculture or tourism (land, inputs, access to services such as finance, skills etc).
  • What are other conditions are needed for returnees to succeed? What are the different needs between female and ambles to reintegrate?
  • What is opportunity cost/benefit for returnees to stay on in their home town or go back to work elsewhere? What is likelihood for returnees to stay on in their home town post-pandemic?
  • What support is currently being provided by local government? What are the barriers, if any, to access this support?
  • What are potential interventions for GREAT to support returnees to engage in the agriculture and tourism sectors in the remained months of the current phase of the GREAT program phase and in the next phase?  How can this support be tailored to support women?
  • How could GREAT work with local partners such as DOLISA, district authorities and interested businesses to facilitate returnees to engage in new livelihoods in in the second phase of the GREAT Program?


Study area: The study will be conducted in Son La and Lao Cai provinces.

Key informants:

  • Recent returnees 15 and over (both men and women) from outside the province (industrial parks, companies, factories, informal work.   

District authorities, DOLISA, service providers such as finance and local agriculture and tourism businesses, Workshop

General approach: The selected provider will need to collaborate with GREAT to develop an assessment design and workplan that includes:

  • Methodology, including sampling approach, taking into account GREAT’s gender focus such as disaggregated data and separate female and male focus groups.  
  • Survey questionnaires and guiding questions for in-depth and group interviews.
  • Consultation workshop with DOLISA, district authorities, interested business and GREAT on findings and recommendations.
  • Timetable of key activities and deliverables

Tools: The questionnaire for household interviews and guiding questions for in-depth and group interviews.



The implementation of this assessment requires proactive management and engagement from the Aus4Equality|GREAT team on an ongoing basis, particularly for oversight, quality assurance and strategic advice of the assessment at the critical stages and of the assessment products.  The Project Manager will be GREAT’s Agriculture Business Consultant, and other team members will be involved as necessary.

Specific roles of the GREAT team are:

  • Manage and oversee the implementation and progress of the partnership agreement
  • Collaborate closely with the selected research institution in the assessment process to carry out quality assurance of the assessment plan, assessment protocol, tools and interim outputs, deliverables 
  • Provide strategic advice to the assessment team at critical stages
  • Provide support to connect with and obtain guidance from relevant entities such as the Program Management Units (PMUs),
  • Provide clearance to assessment deliverables that meet quality standards
  • Have the primary responsibility for communication and publication of the assessment findings

Research institution

The selected research institution has a lead role in designing and implementing the assessments. The institution has a primary accountability to the GREAT team for the identified deliverables. In collaboration and coordination with GREAT, it will:

  • Develop   the assessment design, tools, and workplan, including a plan for dealing with any ethical issues (e.g. Prior informed consent) that may arise from the assessment
  • Obtain ethical clearance from a National Institutional Review Board (IRB), if required
  • Carry out assessment activities according to the approved plan, ensuring high quality and efficiency
  • Alert the GREAT team immediately about any cases of undesirable impacts such as environmental damage or disaster risks. gender-based violence and child labour
  • Conduct data analysis and prepare assessment reports according to the mutually agreed reporting outline
  • Share and report assessment findings as needed


The consultants will deliver the following report/presentation in Vietnamese

  • Methodology and assessment proposal: Proposed methodology and detailed workplan
  • IRB clearance, if required.
  • Training plan and report for data collectors including: Training agenda, training materials/tools, list of participants, training report, pilot plan, pilot tools, pilot implementation report, including finalised tools
  • Valid, clean and good quality database using a professional quantitative data analysis software
  • Draft assessment report covering the following topics:
  • Agenda, presentation and minutes from consultation workshop
  • Final assessment report





Activities and Deliverables


Develop methodology

Dec 2021

Activity: Develop research plan, methodology and key research question for Son La and Lao Cai provinces

Deliverables: A research plan with methodology and key research questions developed.


Obtain IRB approval, if necessary


IRB approval


Training for data collectors and piloting


Training plan and report for data collectors including: Training agenda, training materials/tools, list of participants, training report, pilot plan, pilot tools, pilot implementation report, including finalized tools


Conduct data collection and develop database


Valid, clean and good quality database using a professional quantitative data analysis software


Conduct rapid assessment

January 2022

Activity: Conduct rapid assessment in Son La and Lao Cai provinces

Deliverables: Draft rapid assessment report


Consultation workshop

- Jan 2022

Activity: Facilitate consultation workshop with Son La and Lao Cai provinces to validate findings/ information and consult about proposed recommendations.

Deliverables: Workshop agenda, presentation and meeting minutes which include comments and recommendations from participants


Finalise report and propose recommendations

February 2022

Activity: Finalise report and submit to GREAT

Deliverables: Final assessment report which includes research finding and recommendations as specified in the ToRs.


  • A total of 60 working days is estimated with budget of AUD 21,000
  • Remuneration will be subject to the qualification of the consultant and in line with GREAT cost norms
  • A deliverable based contract will be negotiated with the successful applicant that will be inclusive of consultancy fees, VAT/PIT tax, travel and data collection fees.


The assessment team will need a team leader and team members with the following qualifications:

  • Team leader with strong experience in conducting social and economic surveys and analysis and relevant tertiary qualifications
  • Team leader with experience in designing livelihood options in supply chains or market-based approaches
  • Team members with direly relevant experience and tertiary qualifications with at least one team member that can conduct opportunity costs analysis
  • Experience in supporting ethnic minorities and understanding of women’s’ economic empowerment is an advantage
  • Good facilitation and reporting skills


Interested consultant teams are invited to send Proposals to [email protected] before 17h00 Hanoi time 14 December 2021 with the subject line “Rapid Assessment of livelihood Opportunities for recent returnees to Son La and Lao Cai province”.  Late applications will be not considered.

The proposal needs to include:

  • Consultant capacity, expertise and relevant experience, and initial research design (maximum five pages),
  • Estimated budget

Please note Cowater will retain full copywrite ownership of all deliverables as specified under the Head Contract with DFAT.

Job Details
Organisation Name: 
Aus4Equality|GREAT Program
Ha Noi, Son La and Lao Cai
Application Deadline: 
Tue, 2021-12-14