Closing the Gender Gap in Vietnam: An Analysis based on the Vietnam Censuses

Type Report
Title Closing the Gender Gap in Vietnam: An Analysis based on the Vietnam Censuses
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2012
For the first time since Vietnam’s reunification in 1975, statistical data are available to allow us
to take stock of two decades of change in the realm of gender equality in Vietnam. The main
objective of this report is to provide an overall picture of how Vietnam has progressed towards
achieving equal opportunities for men and women in society. Micro-data obtained from three
national population and housing censuses, conducted in 1989, 1999, and 2009, allow us to
estimate the progress made by women and men in Vietnam and to statistically document
achievements made in closing the gender gap. We provide results for ten variables that fall
under three fundamental domains of men’s and women’s lives: economic participation
opportunities, educational attainment, and health and mortality.
The main findings of this analysis show remarkable progress. Girls’ and women’s place in
Vietnamese society has significantly improved in the last twenty years. Achievements in the
realm of education are particularly striking: census results for 2009 indicate higher enrolments of
girls than boys at the secondary and tertiary levels. Economic participation and opportunities
have continued to improve for women, relative to men, over the past twenty years. The
proportion of females holding positions of power remains low, but has increased dramatically.
With respect to health and mortality, we see that the life expectancy for both males and females
has increased. In contrast, however, there is clear evidence of increasing sex ratios at birth,
which indicates accrued prenatal sex discrimination towards girls.
Overall, we find clear evidence that the numerous initiatives, programs, and policies put in place
by the government of Vietnam have paved the way for a very significant narrowing of the gender
gap in many aspects of women’s and men’s lives. Nevertheless, continued efforts are required
to improve women’s opportunities for professional advancement and to promote the value of
Despite this very positive picture painted by census data, our analysis has limitations. We do not
capture change among the most vulnerable groups, such as people living below the poverty
level or ethnic minority groups. In addition, gender equality cannot be exclusively measured with
quantitative indicators, such as the ones provided by census data. Many aspects of genderbased
discrimination in employment or education, for instance, are not captured by the type of
analysis we present here. Other domains of life, such as domestic violence and sexual
harassment, are important indicators of progress in achieving gender equality that cannot be
addressed with census data.

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