Vietnam Overview

VIETNAM 

Vietnam is located in Southeast Asia with a total land area of 329,314 square kilometres and a coast line of approximately 3,200 kilometers. According to the 2009 national census, the total population was estimated at 85.85 million, with women accounting for 50.60% of the total. 

Vietnam has 64 cities and provinces. Hanoi in the north is the capital city with a population of approximately 6.45 million people, while Ho Chi Minh City in the south is the largest urban area, with a population estimated at 7.16 million. There are 54 different ethnic groups in the country.

Vietnam is a one-party state, with power vested in the Communist Party (VCP) and policy dialogue taking place within the legislative National Assembly (NA). The main institutional structures of political power and governance have evolved since 1976. Government policy is set by the Politburo, the VCP’s executive body, but the National Assembly has had a growing influence in this process. The current political system of Vietnam comprises the following: the CPV, political organizations, socio-political organizations, socio-professional organizations, and mass associations.

Key Indicators of Vietnam

 

Population

mn.

86.9

 

HDI

0.593

 

GDP p.c.

$

3205

Pop. growth1

% p.a.

1.1

 

HDI rank of 187

128

 

Gini Index

 

37.6

Life expectancy

years

75

 

UN Education Index

0.503

 

Poverty3

%

38.5

Urban population

%

28.8

 

Gender Inequality2

0.305

 

Aid per capita

$

42.9

Sources: The World Bank, World Development Indicators 2011 | UNDP, Human Development Report 2011. Footnotes: (1) Average annual growth rate. (2) Gender Inequality Index (GII). (3) Percentage of population living on less than $2 a day.

 Rapid economic growth over the past two decades has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the incidence of poverty which, using the international poverty line as a reference point, dropped from 58 per cent to 14 per cent between 1993 and 2008. In 2011, the percentage of the Vietnamese population living on less then $2 a day was 38.5. 

Market-based reforms to promote high and sustained economic growth were critical to Vietnam’s success, buttressed by egalitarian policies in the provision of basic services, access to land, and investments in infrastructure to ensure widespread access to opportunities for the poor. As a middle-income country, Vietnam is embracing numerous new opportunities for development. Yet there are also challenges which need to be tackled – particularly if Vietnam is to overcome the so-called ‘middle-income trap’ (UNDP 2011). These challenges include less-developed infrastructure, a low level of specialization and economic competitiveness, poor science and technology capacity, and an unskilled labour force. These all threaten the sustainability of Vietnam’s achievements and hinder further human development.

In addition, the pace of poverty reduction has been markedly slower in recent years. The nation-wide poverty rate declined at only one per cent per annum during the period of 2006-2008, compared to three to four per cent over preceding periods. Persistent levels of poverty is proving difficult to eradicate due to a number of difficult challenges—of isolation, limited assets, low levels of education, poor health status—and poverty reduction has become less responsive to economic growth. Reducing or even stabilizing poverty within ethnic minority groups has proven especially difficult—although Vietnam’s 53 ethnic minority groups make up less than 15 percent of the population, they account for 47 percent of the poor in 2010, compared to 29 percent in 1998. As of 2010, 66.3 percent of ethnic minorities in Vietnam are poor compared to only 12.9 percent of the Kinh majority population.

Poverty rate of Vietnam, period 1993 – 2008 (%)

 

1993

1998

2002

2004

2006

2008

Nation-wide

58.1

37.4 

28.9 

19.5

16.0

14

Urban

25.1 

9.2 

6.6 

3.6

3.9

3.1

Rural

66.4 

45.5 

35.6 

25.0

20.4

18.1

Kinh and Hoa

53.9

31.1

23.1

13.5

10.3

8.5

Ethnic minorities

86.4

75.2

69.3

60.7

52.3

49.8

Source: Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs of Vietnam (MOLISA) and World Bank (2010)

Relatedly, spatial pockets of poverty persist in areas where concentrations of ethnic minorities are high—particularly in the north-west and central highland regions. These pockets are characterized by extreme poverty, whose people have been successful in adopting or utilizing the many tried-and-tested poverty reduction measures that have been employed in addressing traditional patterns of poverty. This ‘hard core’ of the vulnerable and disadvantaged is made up of ethnic minorities, the elderly, disabled people, female headed households, and so on. 

Thus, relatively positive gains at the national level mask persistent disparities between regions, income groups, and the ethnic minorities and Kinh majority. For example, rates of child stunting and malnutrition are two to three times higher in rural and mountainous areas. In education, only 40 percent of ethnic minority children attend early childhood education compared to 61 percent of the Kinh majority. In lower secondary education the net enrolment rate is 59 percent for the poorest quintile, compared to 95 percent for the richest quintile. Less than one percent of the poorest quintile attends tertiary education, compared to 26.3 percent of the richest quintile.

Action on Poverty

Action on Poverty