Academic journal article SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia

Looking beyond Bien Che: The Considerations of Young Vietnamese Graduates When Seeking Employment in the Doi Moi Era

Academic journal article SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia

Looking beyond Bien Che: The Considerations of Young Vietnamese Graduates When Seeking Employment in the Doi Moi Era

Article excerpt

In the late 1980s Vietnam embarked on a programme of economic restructuring known as doi moi (1)--literally, "renovation". Doi moi is an attempt to transform the centralized economic system to a market-oriented economy by implementing an open-door policy and a series of structural reforms, with the objective of reversing decades of economic stagnation. As the market operates on the basis of competition, this reduces central planning by the state, and the change has had a major impact on employment trends, especially as seen in the youth in Vietnam.

Each year there are around 1.7 million young men and women in Vietnam seeking employment in the market for the first time (Youth in Vietnam 2000, p. 17). Many do not succeed in securing employment and are compelled to take up short-term assignments. Consequently, employment has become the foremost concern of the youth in present-day Vietnam. In a 1995 nation-wide survey of 1,542 young men and women under thirty years of age, 73.2 per cent of the respondents stated that "occupation and work" was their prime concern, ahead of "study and developing their talents" (49.2 per cent), "love and marriage" (37 per cent), and "getting rich" (24.4 per cent) (Thai Duy Tuyen 1995, p. 122).

This paper offers an insight into Vietnamese youths and their perspectives on an issue that concerns them most, that of employment. It does so by presenting candid opinions taken from in-depth interviews with Vietnamese youths and comparing these findings with the latest survey data.

It has been acknowledged that in youth studies, the way in which young people have been conceptualized is itself problematic and inconsistent, because "youth" is frequently used and perceived as a subjective categorization of people based on age. But there is no theoretical basis to categorize youth in this way (Wyn and White 1997, p. 8). In fact, "youth" can be categorized differently, depending on factors such as national, cultural, and social contexts, gender, race, ethnicity, and class (Liebau and Chisholm 1993, pp. 3-8), which makes it difficult to formulate a universal definition of "youth".

Nevertheless, the aim of my research was not to work out the definition of youth, but rather to find out how young Vietnamese look at employment. For this, a set of specific, non-abstract, and operational criteria is required to enable a research sample to be drawn. During fieldwork carried out in Hanoi in 2000, I conducted in-depth interviews with seventy-five university graduates below thirty years of age, of which thirty-eight were men and thirty-seven women. In both daily life and sociological research within Vietnam, the youths, or thanh nien, are widely perceived as people belonging to the 15-30 years age group (see, for example, Nguyen Van Trung 1996, p. 8; Thai Duy Tuyen 1995). Young university graduates were selected as the target population because they are representative products of the higher education system (and hence tomorrow's national elite). They are also the group that is most concerned with and anxious about employment matters. According to the 1995 nation-wide survey, the proportion of youths most concerned with employment increases with level of education: whilst 61.1 per cent of the youths with primary education and 75.2 per cent with secondary education regard work and occupation as their utmost concern, this percentage is as high as 81.9 per cent for young people who have had college and university education (Thai Duy Tuyen 1995, p. 122). Furthermore, whilst Vietnamese social scientists and policymakers frequently acknowledge that the Vietnamese youth constitute the social group that is most exposed to social transformation and economic changes resulting from doi moi (for example, Nguyen Van Trung 1996, p. 10; Ho Duc Viet 1996, pp. 10-16), those who have had higher education tend to be among the most exposed, and also most responsive, to ongoing changes and transformation. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.