6 Promote gender equality and empower women

Where we are?

© United Nations Viet Nam\2010\Aidan Dockery


Viet Nam has made strong progress on its gender equality targets. It has been very successful in increasing girls’ participation in education at primary and secondary levels. The primary net enrolment rate is now 91.5 percent for girls and 92.3 percent for boys, the lower secondary net enrolment rate 82.6 percent for girls and 80.1 percent for boys, and the upper secondary net enrolment rate 63.1 percent for girls and 53.7 percent for boys. The labour force participation rate is 73 percent for women, compared to 82 percent for men. Women’s representation in the National Assembly is currently 24.4 percent.


Gender inequality is deep-rooted in all societies, and Viet Nam is no exception. Left unattended it could impact negatively on the achievements made so far. Families continue to give preferential treatment to, and invest greater resources in, boys and men. Persistent son preference and devaluing of girls is demonstrated in the rising sex-ratio at birth, which is currently at 111.9 boys to 100 girls nationally. This may very well rise to 115 boys to 100 girls in the current decade, pushing Viet Nam closer to the highest levels observed in the world. Sex-selection is particularly evident in better-off families, with higher sex-ratio at birth values for the top two quintiles, and lower levels among the poor and ethnic minorities (GSO Population Change Survey 2011).

Gender-based violence is acknowledged to be a serious problem in Viet Nam, occurring in rural and urban areas and among all social groups. According to a study on domestic violence conducted by GSO in 2010, one in three (32 percent) of ever-married women report that they have suffered physical or sexual violence from their husbands at some time in their lives. And over half of women (58 percent) experience physical, mental and sexual violence during their life. Changing social norms, together with incentives to encourage households to invest in girls and women, supportive social services and men and boys involvement in gender-based violence prevention are required to reverse these trends.


Women play an important role in the Vietnamese economy accounting for 48.4 percent of the workforce. However, women are concentrated in informal, vulnerable types of employment. According to VHLSS data, 24.2 percent of women were in non-farm wage employment in 2008, compared to 35.5 percent of men. Many of these women work as own account or unpaid family labourers1. According to data on employment trends, 53 percent of all employed women in Viet Nam are unpaid workers in the family business, compared with 32 percent of men2. Women in the informal sector have lower wages, lower skills levels and more limited access to skill development and training than men do. The ratio of female-to-male estimated earned income is 0.69, meaning that for every 100,000 VND earned by a man, a woman earns 69,000 VND3.

Women’s dual responsibilities for care-giving and domestic work, as well as for income generation, constrain their ability to participate in paid employment, in particular in the formal sector. In order to support women’s participation, structural inequalities in areas such as access to training opportunities and land use certificate holdings need to be addressed, and a comprehensive social protection system needs to be in place.  

Representation in national parliament

Women’s representation in the National Assembly is currently 24.4 percent, which is the lowest percentage in the last four terms. This decline is in contrast to the global trend of an increase in the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments. To address this concern, significant changes are required, such as ending the official age discrimination for women and providing both women and men with the choice in deciding their age of retirement within a specific range. Ensuring highly qualified women hold a minimum of half of the ballot slots, as well as promoting more women to senior positions in the Party and in administrative government will support Viet Nam in reaching its stated target of 35 percent women’s representation in the 2016 National Assembly election.

Targets for MDG3
  1. Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015
    • Ratios of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education
    • Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
    • Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament