The rapid economic growth experienced in Vietnam during the 1990s and early 2000s resulted in unprecedented reductions in poverty. The 54 officially recognized ethnic groups within Vietnam’s diverse society have not, however, shared equally from the benefits of this growth. Poverty, life expectancy, nutritional status, and other living standard measures remain stubbornly low among Vietnam’s ethnic minorities despite numerous policies introduced to assist these groups.
Vietnam has 54 officially recognized ethnic groups, of which the Kinh (the Vi?t or mainstream Vietnamese) account for 87 percent. With the exception of the Hoa (ethnic Chinese) and the Khmer and Ch?m, the remaining 50 ethnic groups mostly reside in remote, mountainous rural areas and are economically and socially disadvantaged across a range of dimensions. The members of ethnic minority groups are estimated to be four-and-a-half times more likely to be poor than the Kinh-Hoa, and are also more likely to be malnourished, illiterate, and suffering from poor health.
Despite comprising just over one-eighth of the national population, the minorities accounted for about 40 percent of the poor in 2004. Some government agencies forecast that by 2010, the ethnic minorities will constitute more that half of Vietnam’s poor population. This ESRC-DFID funded research project has investigated why ethnic minority peoples have failed to share equally in the benefits of Vietnam’s recent rapid economic growth, despite the plethora of government programs designed to assist them.
In particular, it has focused on analysing which ethnic groupings have benefited the most from Vietnam’s recent economic growth and why the gap in ethnic living standards has been increasing over time using the Vietnam Livings Standards and Housing Living Standards Surveys. Because this is where the vast majority of ethnic minority people live, this analysis was restricted to rural areas. While the project is not intended to evaluate policies, it also conducted a review of the numerous ethnic minority policies and programs operating in Vietnam, focused on how these POLICY BRIEF 2 policies operate in three selected provinces and districts.
The research was conducted, between December 2006 and February 2008, by the Institute of Development Studies and the Department of Economics at the University of Sussex in collaboration with the Centre for Analysis and Forecasting of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences. This policy brief summarises the three papers prepared during the project, which are available on the project website.