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Vietnam Country Context Paper

Vietnam Country Context Paper

This country context paper provides an overview of women’s contribution to the Vietnamese economy as farmers, entrepreneurs and wage workers, and identifies key barriers to women’s economic empowerment Vietnam. This paper is intended as a baseline against which to measure progress towards women’s economic empowerment in Vietnam.

The paper provides a snapshot of the many factors that either facilitate or inhibit women’s economic empowerment in Vietnam, focusing on: laws and their implementation; social norms; access to markets and productive assets; business and work; and political representation. The report also considers the key actors and institutions that are driving or resisting policy reforms that promote gender equality in the world of work, and provides recommendations for addressing the underlying causes of gender gaps.


The paper illustrates that Vietnam has one of the most progressive gender equality legal frameworks in Southeast Asia, including laws on gender equality, domestic violence prevention and control, and specific inclusions around women’s labour rights in the Labour Code. However, translation of equality before the law into real equality experienced by women in Vietnam is a complex process and has not yet been achieved in full.

Since the 1980s, the Vietnamese government has undertaken market-oriented reforms and trade liberalisation, and in 2010 Vietnam reached lower-middle income country status. More than 50% of the female labour force still works in agriculture, in particular the poorest and most disadvantaged women. As the Vietnamese economy continues to shift from agriculture to industry and services, this may have implications for gender equality. For example, the growth of the garment and electronics industries in Vietnam in recent years has resulted in mostly unskilled jobs for women, with limited opportunities for training, development and promotion.

Vietnam’s greater economic openness has the potential to offer a range of exciting opportunities for both women and men, however this will require greater investment in human capacities and skills development, with particular attention to women and girls, as well as a more equitable public provision of quality education, health and other care services. From a gender and care perspective, there is limited public support in Vietnam for care services and rigid gender norms still see care work as belonging in the household sphere and being the responsibility of women.


  • Introduction
  • Part one: Legal and regulatory frameworks for women’s economic empowerment and their implementation
    • Women’s Economic Empowerment in the law
    • Institutions that implement Women’s Economic Empowerment
    • Issues with implementation
  • Part two: Social norms and unpaid care work
    • Social norms
    • The unequal gender distribution of unpaid care work
  • Part three: Access to assets, finance and markets
  • Part four: Business culture and practices
    • Own-account work
    • Wage work
    • Gender patterns in the sectoral distribution of employment
    • Gender gaps in earnings
  • Part five: women’s collective voice and representation
  • Part six: summary of key barriers and strategies to address them
    • Interventions that address underlying causes of women’s economic disempowerment
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