Poverty in Vietnam still exists, but the country is a great success story. Since the beginning of political and economic reforms in 1986, Vietnam has transformed from being one of the poorest countries in the world to a lower middle-income nation. Per capita income grew from below $100 at the start of the reforms, to $1,130 by 2010. According to the World Bank, the proportion of the population in poverty has fallen from 58% in 1993 to 14.5% in 2008. Vietnam has so far attained five of its ten Millennium Development Goal targets and is working towards achieving two more by 2015.
The country has also made incredible progress in education. Primary and secondary school enrollments for the poor have reached more than 90 and 70% respectively. Rising levels of education and diversification into off-farm activities, such as working in factories, construction sites, or domestic housework have also contributed to poverty reduction.
Although Vietnam has made great progress, the country still faces challenges when tackling further poverty reduction. The prevailing poverty of the ethnic minority in Vietnam is of particular concern. Although Vietnam’s 53 ethnic minority groups make up less than 15% of the population, they accounted for almost 50% of the poor in 2010. Many continue to reside in less productive and more isolated upland regions of Vietnam.
Rising inequality in income and opportunities has also accompanied the recent economic growth and transformation. Some of the poor have limited access to high quality education, health services, and job opportunities, particularly those living in small cities or rural areas.
The Socio-Economic Development Strategy (SEDS) 2011-2012 focuses on structural reforms, social equity, environmental sustainability, and arising issues of macroeconomic stability. It defines three “breakthrough areas”: promoting human resources skills development (particularly for modern industry and innovation), improving market institutions, and infrastructure development. Vietnam aims to lay the foundations for a modern, industrialized society by 2020.
Maintaining the current pace of economic growth in Vietnam is crucial to continued poverty reduction. However, this growth must come with equity and will have to include all regions and groups in the country to become a modern, industrialized society.
– Ali Warlich