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International standards on women and work in Vietnam

Investing in Women The University of Sydney




Workplace Gender Equality

Gender equality Gender gap Workplace Gender Equality Gender parity Women in work Labor standards

International standards on women and work in Vietnam

International standards on women and work in Vietnam

This report provides an overview of the international standards on women and work, and explores to what extent they have been implemented in Vietnam.

The report explores how international labour standards aim to improve women’s position in the labour market and in society by providing common benchmarks and minimum standards around the world. These standards are important for preventing a ‘race to the bottom’, allowing different countries to raise minimum standards together without undermining their international competitive advantage.

Two influential instruments in this area are the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions and Resolutions, and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The ILO develops conventions and resolutions with the intention that nation states can incorporate these into national legislation. In 1999, the ILO adopted a policy of ‘gender equality mainstreaming,’ which requires that gender awareness be interwoven through all conventions and implementation strategies. In 2018, the ILO will seek to introduce a new convention addressing all forms of gender-based violence, harassment and discrimination against women, including domestic or family-based violence and its impact in the workplace.

The United Nations CEDAW convention, which was adopted in 1979 and has been ratified by almost two hundred states, positions women’s rights as human rights and focuses on eliminating all forms of discrimination against women. CEDAW requires equal pay for equal work, the right to social security, paid leave, and maternity leave with pay or comparable social benefits without negative consequences for taking maternity leave such as loss of job or seniority.

Vietnam Highlights

Vietnam adopted many of the key global standards on women and work for the first time in the past decade following a political shake-up in 2006. Additional protections under Vietnamese law include paid paternity/parental leave and paid menstruation leave, advocacy programs to promote gender equality, fair and equal treatment of domestic workers and ongoing efforts to eliminate sexual harassment and violence against women.

However, difficulties associated with enforcement of these laws and standards on women and work present a major problem in countries such as Vietnam, where many women work in informal sector occupations and few resources are allocated for labour inspections even within the formal sector. In the absence of more effective monitoring by governments, the onus for compliance falls primarily on individual companies that do not always meet their legal obligations

Without concrete measures to enforce legislation and change workplace culture, pregnancy, childcare, and family responsibilities continue to be significant barriers to women’s career development, and women continue to be vulnerable to discrimination, harassment and violence in the workplace.


  • International standards
  • ILO conventions and CEDAW
  • Diffusion of international norms
  • Problems with enforcement
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