Economic and political reforms (Doi Moi), initiated in the mid-1980s, have transformed Viet Nam into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. However, growth has produced fewer benefits for the poorest. The country also has yet to improve the well-being of a sizeable share of youth, especially those disadvantaged and in rural areas, according to the OECD Development Centre’s Youth Well-being Policy Review
in Viet Nam.
With one quarter of its population aged between 15 and 29, Viet Nam has tremendous potential for further development. Vietnamese youth are healthier and better educated than their parents and stand to benefit from positive economic prospects. The share of tertiary educated among youth aged 25-29 is increasing, and 70% of them have high-skilled jobs. But these young people represent a small share of the youth population (8% among the 25-29 have a tertiary degree). The majority of young Vietnamese are disadvantaged (low-skilled and early school leavers) and live in rural areas.
The OECD Development Centre’s analysis of youth in Viet Nam uses an innovative multi-dimensional approach to assess their situation in health, education, employment and civic participation. The report reveals that nearly half of employed youth are in jobs that do not match their qualifications. The vast majority (85%) of the young labour force works in the informal sector, with no specific qualification from vocational training or higher education. Only 31% of those aged 25-29 have obtained an upper secondary degree or above. Rural youth, which make up 70% of the youth population, face additional challenges of access to vocational training and decent jobs. Adolescent pregnancies among ethnic minority, rural, low-educated and poor girls are three to four times higher than the national average.
The report highlights the urgent need to invest more in human capital development. Improving the quality, accessibility and relevance of vocational education and training (VET) is key to narrowing the ‘’skills gap” - the difference between the skills of young people and those that employers need - especially in rural and remote areas. This requires to further train teachers, modernise equipment and facilities, and better evaluate the impact of VET programmes. Better linkages between VET institutions and local enterprises would also help understand labour market needs and improve the relevance of these programmes.
As the report acknowledges, youth issues are gaining prominence in Viet Nam’s policy agenda, as demonstrated by the adoption of the Youth Law in 2005 and the Vietnamese Youth Development Strategy 2011-2020. For those strategic targets to be reached, a better prioritisation of programmes, more co-ordinated inter-ministerial efforts, and increased investment in youth programmes are essential. Sustaining Viet Nam’s remarkable economic success requires that all of its youth contribute to and benefit from the fruits of growth.