UN's new Report sheds light on poverty divide between men and women

26 Aug 2002

Ha Noi  - A new report released today points out that despite much progress, inequalities in living conditions persist between men and women in Viet Nam. The Report calls for gender sensitive policies to improve the status of women, particular of women living in rural areas of the nation.

“Gender Differences in the Transitional Economy of Viet Nam”, jointly launched by the National Committee for the Advancement of Women (NCFAW), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), shows that despite important gender equality achievements there exist some areas where women and girls are still at a disadvantage compared to men or boys.

Fewer women in waged work than men.
The proportion of women in waged work is only about half the proportion of men. Between 1993-98, the proportion of women in waged work increased only 4 percentage points, from 19 to 23 percent. Men enjoyed a far greater increase of 9 percentage points from 32 to 41 percent.

Women’s wages are lower than men’s, even within the same sector.
The real average hourly wage women receive (2,266 dong) is only 78 percent of the average hourly wage earned by men (2,900 dong). Women receive lower wages for the same type of work as men in some sectors. Women are also overwhelmingly concentrated in lower skilled professions, such as teachers and manual workers, and are less likely than men to be found in senior management positions.

Women spend twice as much time on unpaid housework as men.
Men and women record similar amounts of hours spent in paid work. However, women spend over twice as much time as men in housework for which they are not remunerated, leaving women little or no time to participate in leisure, cultural, social activities, and further education.

A gender gap in education beyond primary level is re-emerging.
Education is a key factor to reduce poverty for it increases labour productivity. The good news is that the gender gap in primary education is minimal. There now exists very little difference between enrolment rates of boys and girls of primary school age. This fact means that Viet Nam has made considerable progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals on Primary Education. However, the gender gap in enrolment rates still exists for secondary school. In upper secondary school the gap has declined from a 15 percentage point to an 11 percentage point difference between boys and girls enrolment rates.

Women are less well nourished than men.
Both adult men and women reported improvements in their nutritional status between 1993-1998, though men enjoyed the largest improvement. Adult women, especially those in rural areas, in poorer households and amongst people of ethnic minority, are still more likely to suffer from chronic energy deficiency than men. The proportion of children 10 years of age and under who exhibit signs of stunting has declined from around 50% to 38% over the period. However, 41% of all girls under 10 years of age still exhibit signs of stunting, compared to 35% of boys.

Women also face more constraints to accessing credit than men, especially given that they often don’t have collateral, such as land. Although the Land Law in Viet Nam does not discriminate against women, common practices weigh against them. Titles to land are often only in the husband's name.
"Gender Equality is not just a women’s issue – it is a key development issue. Ensuring that every person’s needs and priorities are considered, and that all Vietnamese people, men, women, girls, and boys, benefit equally from our country’s achievements" , said Madame Ha Thi Khiet, chairwoman of the National Committee For the Advancement of Women, and President of Viet Nam Women’s Union.

“The National Assembly need to carefully take into consideration the new findings that the report offers to better assess the impact on both women and men of specific social and economic policies”, said Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thi Kim Thoa, Vice-Chairman of Committee of Foreign Affairs of the National Assembly.

To address seriously the current situation of women and thus the respective roles of women and men in society, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai recently signed a strategy for the advancement of women covering the next 10 years. In seeking to improve gender equality, it focuses on the rights of women in the workplace, their education and health as well as their political role and leadership.

Jordan Ryan, the UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam, said: “Gender inequality contributes to poverty. Steps are needed to ensure that women and men have equal access and control over resources, development benefits and decision making, at all stage of the development process. This will ensure a stronger Vietnamese society.”” Ryan also noted that to tackle gender inequality, policy makers and the society must enforce existing laws and strengthen such institutions as NCFAW. UNDP, together with the Dutch Government, are providing considerable assistance to NCFAW as it works to implement Government strategies.

Jack Colwell, the FAO Representative in Vietnam a.i., highlighted the valuable findings from the study and expressed the hope that the results will stimulate further research on other gender issues in the future.

Regular collection of sex-disaggregated data and subsequent gender analysis of the data will always be a prerequisite for sound gender-sensitive policies that can adequately address gender gaps identified.

By the end of the year, preliminary data of the new Household Living Standard Survey conducted by the General Statistic Office will be available, allowing for a new poverty analysis, but also for a new gender analysis in 2003.
The organizers expect the Report will become an essential reading for all National Assembly Deputies and all key policy decision-makers and implementers to support them in their role of developing gender-responsive national policies and plans.

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