A specific focus on children has been called for within the development and social protection debates, for moral, economic, rights and social justice reasons. This paper explores the role for social protection in reducing child poverty in the specific case of Vietnam.
Although the country has experienced rapid economic growth with a concurrent rise in living standards, inequalities are widespread across demographic and social groups and deprivation persists in both income and non-income dimensions.
Currently, social protection in Vietnam includes both social insurance and social assistance interventions. An indicative review indicates, however, that their impact on child poverty is limited with eligibility being biased towards the public sector, formal labour market and war veterans. Although various components of the social assistance scheme are more poverty-targeted, evidence does not suggest a strong beneficial impact on children’s lives.
Furthermore, there are considerable gaps with respect to transformative elements that could help address some of the structural inequalities in society. Lessons learned from the poverty analysis suggest that efforts should be directed towards better targeting and expanding services to vulnerable groups such as ethnic minorities or children living in singleheaded households.
Cash transfers may reduce child poverty when complemented with other measures that directly address the non-monetary aspects of child poverty and vulnerability. The impact of preventive interventions and social insurance could be improved by extending coverage to those in the private and informal sectors and reducing or eliminating user fees. Ultimately, conventional social protection interventions should go hand in hand with improvements in social services, infrastructure and legal frameworks.