Poverty Reduction in Vietnam

Vietnam plans to eliminate all poor households and near-poor households by the end of 2020 through implementing vocational training, accessible quality education and affordable health care services. Poverty in Vietnam has been on a steady decline since 2010. In 2016, HCM City officials saw this decline in poverty as an opportunity to implement more poverty reduction efforts by taking multidimensional measures that tackle the main sources of poverty. Sustainable Poverty Reduction was created to eradicate all poor and near-poor households by 2020.

As of January, there were 103,000 poor and near-poor households in HCM City, less than five percent of all households. Since the project began, more than 60,620 poor households. Furthermore, 58,700 near-poor households in HCM City have risen above the poverty line.

Vocational Education and Training

One aspect of the Sustainable Poverty Reduction in Vietnam is vocational education and training (VET). This project is also known as “Renewal and Development of Vocational Training System by 2020.” It involves training rural workers and providing them information about employment trends and career advice. By 2020, this project predicts to increase the rate of skilled rural workers to 50 percent. Additionally, the plan aims to provide VET services to at least 90 percent of Vietnam’s working population and double rural incomes.

Vocational training has helped millions of people garner technical skills to utilize in the workforce. For instance, in 2017, more than 2 million people were enrolled in VET schools. To adapt to a rapidly growing economy, Vietnam’s workforce must transition from agriculture to service-oriented jobs. Similarly, VET services provide resources for rural workers to transition into more skillful and lucrative careers.

Employment in the agricultural sector has been dropping since 1997. About one million workers each year from 2011 to 2014 have transitioned to industry and service sectors.


Along with VET services, Sustainable Poverty Reduction in Vietnam also includes other forms of education. City officials are working to further improve the quality and accessibility of education within poor communities. Education is vital to reducing poverty as most jobs in Vietnam require certain degrees and qualifications. Those with degrees in higher education are more likely to get hired. In 2017, among workers with professional and technical qualifications, 44.7 percent had university degrees and above, 15.8 percent had college degrees, 24 percent had intermediate degrees, and 15.6 percent had elementary certificates.

Education funding is Vietnam’s largest expenditure. It makes up 20 percent of the state budget. In 2012, Vietnam ranked 17th out of 65 countries in academic performance, ahead of countries such as the U.S. and France. Throughout 2015 and 2016, school enrollment was very high. Student enrollment numbers for early elementary students were eight million, five million lower-secondary students, and two million upper-secondary students. This is according to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam. Furthermore, in those same years, the upper-secondary school graduation rate was at 95 percent.

Health Care and Accommodation

This project also incorporates health care services and accommodation. More than 87 percent of the population has health care coverage. Furthermore, estimates indicate an increase to 90 percent by 2020. Health care is one of Vietnam’s weaker programs. However, it is gradually improving due to the increase in health care funding.

The government of Vietnam is dedicated to further expanding universal health care and ensuring poor and near-poor households have access to high-quality treatment and medicine. Vietnam’s Health Insurance Fund covers all hospital fees for poor ethnic minorities living in impoverished communities.

Future of the Vietnamese Economy

The poverty reduction in Vietnam is also attracting other nations to open up their markets to Vietnam. Vietnam is earning its place in the world stage as it begins to globalize its economy and develop trade relations. These relations are with major global players such as the country of China. The globalization of Vietnam’s economy may further expand job opportunities and continue to improve the standard of living. In 2017, there was a 6.7 percent increase in overseas employment. As a result, job opportunities are increasing in international labor markets.

Vietnam’s innovative approach proves a success story. In 1990, Vietnam was one of the poorest countries, facing the remnants of war and famine. In the following years, the country saw rapid economic growth and government officials utilized their resources to further strengthen the economy and lift Vietnam from decades of hardship and poverty. As 2020 approaches, poverty reduction in Vietnam continues as the country takes great measures and strides toward becoming a developed nation.

– Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Flickr

PA Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Vietnam
Although it is true that the life expectancy rates tend to be relatively high in Vietnam, the most common causes of death, although preventable or treatable, have often been somewhat ignored by the country’s health officials and the general public. To get a better understanding of how these health oversights can and are being corrected, the list below states the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Vietnam as well as the efforts being made to enhance rates.

Top 10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Vietnam

  1. Adult Life Expectancy Rates. Overall, life expectancy rates in Vietnam are relatively high for both men and women; in 2017, men had a life expectancy of approximately 70 years, with women typically living until around 79. These numbers are a step up from where life expectancy rates in Vietnam were in 1990. Back then, men were only expected to live until 65 and women until 72. While the current life expectancy rates in Vietnam are impressive, it is still possible to improve them even further by improving the current healthcare system, which as of today, isn’t yet fully equipped to handle the country’s most common causes of death: stroke, heart disease, lung cancer.
  2. Child Mortality. Child mortality rates for children under five-years-old have reached an encouraging low, dropping from 47.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 13 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2017. Children under the age of one were also more likely to survive in 2017, with 10 deaths per 1,000 live births being the modern mortality rate; another exponential shift from the 35 deaths per 1,000 births observed in 1990.
  3. Emerging Economy. The drop in mortality rates and the increase of life expectancy rate in Vietnam may be due in part to the fact that the country is transitioning from an impoverished nation to a lower middle-income nation. The World Bank describes Vietnam as “one of the most dynamic emerging countries in East Asia”, and for good reason. In 2017, Vietnam reached a record-high GDP of $223.86 billion; an incredible jump from its record-low GDP of $6.29 billion in 1989.
  4. Emerging Middle-Class. Vietnam’s middle-class is projected to expand along with the newly emerging market economy. Currently, the middle-class population only makes up 13 percent of the population as most Vietnamese citizens are under 35 years old. Still, as Vietnam ages, the middle-class is expected to grow and eventually encompass 26 percent of the population by 2026.
  5. Childhood Education. In 2011, 66 percent of children in Vietnam had access to full-day preschool education. In 2016, the percentage grew to 84 percent. Programs like Children of Vietnam are hoping to increase that percentage further by providing education to poor and handicapped children. By providing these marginalized children transportation to schools as well as building more schools, Children for Vietnam hopes to break the cycle of poverty by creating opportunities for lower-class children to advance in society.
  6. Hospital Inadequacies. Despite the aforementioned victories in improving life expectancy rates in Vietnam, there is still much work to be done. The Ministry of Health (MOH) estimated that around 40,000 Vietnamese citizens travel abroad annually for health care, spending around $2 billion in the process. This is because most Vietnamese hospitals are outdated, overcrowded and largely understaffed with qualified medical professionals. Public hospitals in Vietnam rely on state budgets to upgrade their services. Although the budget has increased over the years, it is still insufficient.
  7. Automotive Accidents. Automotive accidents remain in the top 10 most common causes of death in Vietnam despite recent legislation that addresses drunk driving and driving without helmets – since many people drive motorcycles to navigate narrow streets. Road accident fatalities have decreased from 12,000 deaths per year prior to 2012 to below 10,000 deaths per year, but the legislation still has a way to go when it comes to road safety. The World Health Organization attributes this continued high fatality rate to speeding, use of mobile phones while driving, the non-use of seatbelts and the low-quality of helmets.
  8. Tobacco. A major cause of stroke and heart disease in Vietnam is the mass consumption of tobacco products. Over 15.6 million Vietnamese adults (over 15 years old) smoke, with 85 percent smoking daily. In an effort to combat this trend, the government has implemented a special consumption tax on tobacco products that is raised by five percent annually. Despite the good intentions behind the tax, it has somewhat backfired. Because of increasing government taxes on goods, smuggling has become a huge problem in the country. The Ho Chi Minh City-based Vietnam Tobacco Association stated that approximately 1 billion packs of smuggled cigarettes are consumed in the country annually. Many tobacco farmers and workers are suffering as a consequence, with 2018 seeing the loss of 1 million jobs in the field.
  9. Project Vietnam Foundation. The Project Vietnam Foundation (PVNF) is a U.S.-based nonprofit that operates in Vietnamese-American communities in the U.S. and on-site in Vietnam. In Vietnam, their primary focus is to provide medical training programs to impoverished rural areas. PVNF has provided reconstructive surgeries for over 2,050 children in need of cleft lip and palate operations, and PVNF’s volunteer mission program has treated over 93,000 patients who may not have otherwise been able to receive treatment.
  10. The Ho Chi Minh Environmental Sanitation Project. The Thi Nghe used to pose a major sanitation and environmental health threat to the city of Ho Chi Minh. With no effective sewage system, the canal was polluted with human waste and garbage, which would often overflow during the raining seasons into the houses and businesses built on top of the canal. In 2002, what was called the Ho Chi Minh Environmental Sanitation Project was implemented with the goal of cleaning the canal and establishing an underground sewage system. The Project finished in 2011, and with its completion came a revitalization of health. Because of the project, 96,000 households benefit from reduced flooding risks, and 1.2 million people (mainly lower-class) now have a centralized wastewater collection. Fish are returning to the canal, which is proof that the water quality is slowly but surely improving. The city is now requesting that phase two of the project begin, with a loan of $450 million from the World Bank and a goal to finish around 2030.

As these top 10 facts about life expectancy in Vietnam show, although progress is being made for healthcare and safety in the country, there is still much work to be done, especially in impoverished rural areas of the country. Educational programs like the Project Vietnam Foundation are truly key in creating sustainable healthcare systems in the nation, so spreading the word about these nonprofits and volunteer opportunities are essential in aiding the further progression of life expectancy of all Vietnamese citizens.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

STEM education for women in Vietnam
At the beginning of 2016 in Vietnam, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Arizona State University created and implemented the Building University-Industry Learning and Development through Innovation and Technology (BUILD-IT) project.


BUILD-IT exercises the goal of connecting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instruction in Vietnamese higher education institutions to students, who then can advance inclusive, technology-based growth. The project works mainly to promote STEM Education for women in Vietnam.

To increase educational innovation in STEM, BUILD-IT hosts semi-annual solutions councils and meetings to discuss problems and potential solutions. Additionally, the project funds innovation labs to develop ideas through technology. To assist in tracking educational innovation, the Higher Education Learning and Innovation Exchange acts as a database for all innovations.

One main priority of the initiative is to facilitate collaboration between universities and the private sector by providing students experiential opportunities in preparation for STEM careers. The project hosts leadership forums to develop academic initiatives, scholarships and networking opportunities for women in STEM.

Women in STEM Leadership Forum

The first leadership forum for the Women in STEM Leadership Program was held at the University of Danang in Vietnam in August 2016 and attracted over several hundred participants. The forum featured female role models, inspired the transfer of knowledge and established paths to entrepreneurship through STEM Education for women in Vietnam.

Katy Wigal, BUILD-IT project director and associate director for Curricular Innovation at Arizona State University, stated “the Forum enabled open discussions on the roles of women in the high demand professions of math, engineering, technology and science. The insights they (female speakers) offered about their personal journeys were inspiring to a new generation of women.”

The USAID Vietnam Mission Director Michael Green also said that “increasing opportunities for women in these fields are critically important in realizing greater economic success and equality for women across the board.”

Report on Women-Owned Enterprises in Vietnam

In a recent report of a market study on women-owned enterprises in Vietnam, the IFC Asia Manager for Financial Institutions Group Advisory Services, Rachel Freeman, concluded that social and traditional expectations can sustain prejudices against female business owners and, in particular, young women.

Businesses traditionally can involve women, but these prejudices can have negative impacts against women and their businesses. From STEM to the business field, social and traditional expectations can infiltrate all aspects of society in Vietnam.

Women in STEM: Sustainable Development

For sustainable development and participatory citizenship, STEM education is innovative and essential for every citizen, especially in regard to women. Women’s involvement in the STEM field benefits social engagement and domestic work in addition to sustaining technological innovation.

Vietnam has successfully increased enrollment rate of female students at the university level from 30 to 52 percent between the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years. The STEM Education for Women in Vietnam initiative is one main priority of the BUILD-IT project because of the importance of inspiring women to modify the status quo and facilitate a global revolution.

– Andrea Quade

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Improving Higher Education in Vietnam

While Vietnam has seen a gradual boost in young Vietnamese citizens attending college, the numbers for higher education in Vietnam have been irregular from year to year. In 2017, Vietnam partnered with the World Bank in order to create plans to improve its educational status for students wishing to attend college and vocational training establishments.

College enrollment in Vietnam has amplified significantly since the late 1990s and early 2000s. Vietnam’s higher education enrollment went from just 10 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2005, rising even higher to 25 percent in 2013. Vietnam saw its highest college enrollment status for both sexes in 2014, at a whopping 30 percent. However, in 2015, the rate for tertiary school attendance fell to 28 percent.

Vietnam has produced durable objectives for a college education by creating the Education Development Strategic Plan for the years 2008 to 2020, as well as the Higher Education Reform Agenda. USAID has partnered with Vietnamese universities and private divisions to invigorate higher education in Vietnam.

USAID collaborates with Harvard Medical School, Harvard Ash Center and Arizona State University, along with three universities in each region of Vietnam to restore the health personnel, STEM curriculums and any ongoing or subsequent demands that the higher educational system faces. Through these plans, Vietnam has seen quality advances in educational performance, literacy and opportunities for educational growth.

The country has also seen an immense request for more vocational and job training options. ICEF Monitor reports that in order for Vietnam to see economic growth, it needs to boost its employment ability rates by at least 50 percent. Industrial employment opportunities are growing in Vietnam as the country continues to build its technical job options in infrastructure. The Asian Development Bank is acknowledging Vietnam’s struggles in job training and is providing reform projects and contributing building resources.

In May 2017, the World Bank approved $155 million in financing to bolster research, teaching and the institutional quantity of three sovereign collegiate academies. The funding will help to improve Vietnam’s higher learning institutes. According to the World Bank’s website, the plan will have a positive impact on over 150,000 students and 3,900 faculty representatives.

The schools receiving the funding are Vietnam’s National University of Agriculture, the University of Science & Technology and the Industry University of Ho Chi Minh City. Aside from these three prominent institutions, around 600,000 students and 27,000 administrators and professors from other colleges will have the chance to expand their learning assets by being granted access to digital learning environments and libraries through the National Economics University.

Higher education in Vietnam is on the right track to continue providing opportunities and job training for its citizens that wish to create a better country through optimistic and thriving learning environments. Vietnam still has a long road ahead of it to provide higher educational access to everyone, but the current programs and resources provided to college students show a positive change for Vietnam’s future college scholars.

– Rebecca Lee

Photo: Flickr

Closing the Gap for Children with Disabilities in VietnamChildren with disabilities are one of the many marginalized groups in the world that often face discrimination. In many countries, cultural beliefs dictate that disabilities arise from the influences of past lives, supernatural forces or the past actions of a parent.

Education is one of the most effective ways of not only breaking these myths, but also breaking the cycle of discrimination experienced by children with disabilities. According to information gathered from the Global Disability Rights Now, approximately 5.8 percent of Vietnam’s population, 5,203,180 people, are living with disabilities. Of these, 23.3 percent are children with disabilities in Vietnam under the age of 19.

Disabled children are less likely to finish or even begin school for many reasons, including gaining little to no access to adequate learning materials, having a lack of trained professionals who understand their needs and having no proper facilities to attend school. Denying these children the right to education not only impacts their learning, but also any hinders any chances of employment opportunities and social and personal development. In order for all children to benefit from basic human rights without facing prejudice, disability inclusion needs to be integrated into all policies and plans devised by a country.

The World Bank has shown support for integrating inclusive education practices for children with disabilities through lending projects and activities. One of the programs implemented for children with disabilities in Vietnam is the Vietnam Intergenerational Deaf Education Outreach Project (IDEO). Under the IDEO, sign language is taught to deaf children and their families in the comfort of their own homes by a mentor who is hearing impaired, a sign language interpreter and a teacher who can hear.

Evaluations documented and recorded from the project showed that using sign language helped to improve deaf children’s language and cognitive development and also their ability to communicate with others. The outreach project has also helped more than 50 deaf adults become mentors to children who are hearing impaired, trained approximately 200 hearing teachers to use sign language in order to effectively support deaf children and instructed more than 50 hearing people as communication facilitators or sign-language interpreters.

The implementation of the IDEO project has strengthened school involvement and organizations in backing the education of deaf children, and has also opened a new method to teaching sign language for these children with disabilities in Vietnam. With the support of similar projects being integrated in the near future, the gap for achievement for disabled children will hopefully decrease.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr

Vietnam has been making strides in its development over the past few decades; the country has seen a reduction in poverty and an increase in the standard of living. The Vietnamese government has invested heavily in its reformed education system, especially when it comes to literacy. Ninety percent of the working-age population is now literate and 98% of primary-school-age children are enrolled in school. The gender gap in education that plagues many other countries is nearly nonexistent in Vietnam, as the enrollment rates are comparable for boys and girls. Furthermore, 25% of college-age adults are enrolled in tertiary education.

These numbers are the product of many years of change in the Vietnamese education system. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the French colonized Vietnam, and very few citizens were able to attend school. With French considered the dominant language of the country at the time, nearly the entire population was illiterate. After Vietnam gained independence in 1945, the government began focusing on improving literacy rates and reforming the education system. Violent conflicts and economic crises made this difficult for many years, but the most recent decade has seen steady progress.

Vietnam first entered the PISA test in 2012. This test measured how 500,000 students from schools in 65 countries answered written and multiple-choice questions. Vietnam ranked 17th in math, eighth in science, and 19th in reading, thus outranking some developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. These results were a positive surprise worldwide.

There has been much discussion about the reasons behind Vietnam’s recent success. The government has been focused on investing in the education system — 21% of all government expenditure is devoted to education. Furthermore, teachers have been traditionally highly respected in Vietnamese culture and they are expected to meet high standards and stay committed to professional development. However, there is concern that strong PISA performance does not tell the whole story.

While the enrollment rates are high for primary school, only 65% of secondary school-age students attend school. Poor or disadvantaged students often drop out, and their scholastic abilities (or lack thereof) were not reflected in the PISA scores. While more privileged students scored high, students who may have lowered the scores were left out of the picture entirely.

Some Vietnamese schools have the resources to focus on creativity and critical problem solving, but most encourage rote learning and memorization. These methods can result in impressive test scores, but do not serve students well once they are out of school. Sadly, corruption is also an issue in Vietnamese schools, particularly elite schools, which sometimes sell students places for extremely high prices.

Although the Vietnamese education system has a long way to go, the recent PISA scores are positive signs of things to come. In the long process of recovering from years of conflict, these reforms in the school system have brought about progress and a more educated populace. As Vietnam develops, schools can continue to improve and effectively serve students of all economic backgrounds.

– Jane Harkness

Sources: BBC, The Economist, World Education News and Reviews, World Bank
Photo: Global Playground