About Vietnam

  • Population (millions): 89.7 (2013)
  • Life Expectancy: 76 (2012)
  • Infant Mortality Rate (per 1000 births): 19 (2013)
  • Percentage of rural population with access to an improved water source: 94% (2012)
  • Fertility Rate (births per woman): 2 (2012)
  • Literacy Rate: 94% (2009)
  • Primary School Enrollment: 98% (2012)
  • Per capita GDP:  $1,911 (2013)
  • Percentage of population living on less than $2 per day: 13% (2012)
  • Ethnic Groups: Kinh (Viet) 86.2%, Tay 1.9%, Thai 1.7%, Muong 1.5%, Khome 1.4%, Hoa 1.1%, Nun 1.1%, Hmong 1%, others 4.1% (1999 census)
  • Languages: Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)
  • Religions: Buddhist 9.3%, Catholic 6.7%, Hoa Hao 1.5%, Cao Dai 1.1%, Protestant 0.5%, Muslim 0.1%, none 80.8% (1999 census)

Vietnam is located in Southeastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin, and South China Sea, as well as China, Laos, and Cambodia. When World War II ended and the Japanese fascists surrendered, the Vietnamese people were carried out with the victory of the Revolution in August 1945. On September 2, 1945, President Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of the country.

Vietnam has achieved remarkable economic success since the Doi Moi (renovation) process, which began in 1986. Since 1993, growth in real gross domestic product has averaged around 7.5 percent a year and the poverty rate has been reduced from 58 percent in 1993 to 13 percent in 2008. Increasingly, the key drivers of growth have been accelerated international integration, market liberalization and job creation in the private sector.

However, Vietnam needs to protect its gains as well as make further inroads into entrenched poverty. Fifty percent of the population still lives on less than US$2 a day and many remain vulnerable to sliding back into poverty as a result of either economic shocks or natural disasters.

Poverty in Vietnam is concentrated among ethnic minorities who live in remote mountainous areas. However, there are also significant pockets of poverty among the rural majority Kinh people. Even with increased rates of urbanization, the majority of people living in rural areas (80 percent of the population) remain engaged in agriculture (60 percent of the workforce). Gender also remains a significant determinant of poverty in Vietnam. For example, ethnic minority girls continue to lag behind both Kinh girls (10 percent gap) and ethnic minority boys (13 percent gap) in terms of school enrolment.

Rural, poor people face harsh natural conditions and frequent natural disasters. They are particularly vulnerable to seasonal hardships, community-wide crises and unexpected events, such as disease, which increase a household's expenses and reduce income. Poor households tend to include more dependants, especially children. Among age groups, poverty disproportionately affects children. Poor people, particularly ethnic minorities, are often uninformed about their rights and lack access to legal assistance.