Vietnam’s gender disparities have come under scrutiny in recent years in part because of the global push for gender equality. Despite the nation’s progress in closing the gender gap in both education and labor participation, inequalities still persist. Recognizing this phenomenon, the Vietnamese government recently renewed its Labor Code, reaffirming its commitment to achieving gender parity through gender equality reforms. The reformed Labor Code aims to advance gender equality in the workplace. Vietnam drafted its revamped Labor Code in 2019 to go into effect in 2021. Here are five of its proposed reforms to promote gender equality in the Vietnamese workplace.
5 Gender Equality Reforms in the Vietnamese Workplace
- Equal Pay for Equal Work. The new Labor Code limits the gender wage gap in Vietnam by tackling gender discrimination in the workplace. Vietnam’s 2016 Labor Force Survey revealed that women receive 10.7% less than men, with the gender wage gap standing at 8.1% for unskilled female workers and 19.7% for female employees with higher education qualifications. The amended Labor Code “maintains the payment of equal wages for work of equal value.”
- Equal Access to Jobs. As of 2019, legislation denied Vietnamese female workers “access to 77 jobs” on the basis of sex, pregnancy or child caretaking responsibilities. These “prohibited jobs include occupations that are heavy and hazardous such as in construction, mining and fisheries.” The amended Labor Code removes these prohibitions, and instead, gives women the right to choose an occupation suitable for them.
- Paid Paternity Leave. Only women workers in Vietnam receive paid parental leave to care for sick children younger than 7 years old, perpetuating the stereotype that women are the primary caretakers of their children. Because males “have the same capacity to care for children and the home,” males should be able to take this leave as well. As such, the new Labor Code “now entitles male employees to paid paternity leave” so that this responsibility is equal. Gender discrimination both in hiring and workplace practices hinders women’s abilities to contribute fully and fairly to the Vietnamese labor force.
- Addressing Discriminatory Barriers. The reformed Labor Code seeks to combat discriminatory barriers. The law includes protections against discrimination based on marital status, pregnancy, disability and more. Female workers can now take daily breaks to breastfeed children younger than 12 months old. During menstruation, women can take a 30-minute break.
- Combating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Vietnam also seeks to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Statistics show that women constitute 80% of victims of workplace sexual harassment. The amended law provides a specific definition of sexual harassment to ensure justice for victims, including any form of physical, verbal or non-verbal harassment. The government broadened this definition of the workplace to include a wide variety of “work-related locations.” Addressing sexual harassment in the workplace “will improve retention and productivity of all women workers.”
Striving for Gender Equality in Vietnam
By combating gender equality in the workplace, Vietnam has the potential to better its economy while advancing women’s rights. With reforms to improve gender equality, Vietnam aligns with global goals as the fight for equality dominates the global discourse. Aiming to achieve a work-life balance for both men and women dissolves gender stereotypes. Business owners, employers and employees can now rely on a strong legal framework against sexual harassment. More importantly, the adjusted Labor Code empowers women and inspires more female workers to join the workforce. These efforts will inevitably help advance gender equality in Vietnam.
– Tri Truong