Economic Growth and Employment in Vietnam

By Chuc, Nguyen Dinh | Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, April 2016 | Go to article overview

Economic Growth and Employment in Vietnam


Chuc, Nguyen Dinh, Journal of Southeast Asian Economies


Economic Growth and Employment in Vietnam. By David Lim. London and New York: Routledge, 2014. Pp. 181.

This book provides a comprehensive overview of Vietnam's economy and employment issues, which have undergone dramatic changes over the last twenty-five years. Economic Growth and Employment in Vietnam is written by David Lim of Griffith University (Australia) and Technological and Higher Education Institute (Hong Kong) as a result of his work done for the International Labour Organization (ILO) in preparation for Vietnam's Five-Year Socio-Economic Development Plan 2011-15. With the exclusion of the preface, the book is presented in four parts. The first part (Chapters 1-3) focuses on economic and non-economic achievements and employment creation during the twenty-five years of economic renovation. The second part (Chapters 4-8) examines different aspects that, according to the author, have influences and relationships with employment creation of the country. The third part (Chapters 9-11) discusses the demand for skilled workers and the higher education and vocational training system to meet this demand. The fourth concludes and presents some policy recommendations and proposes an approach to future reforms and changes.

Its message delivered to policymakers of Vietnam is apparent: despite the remarkable performance of the economy and human development during the past few decades, employment creation from economic growth is lower than expected. The structure of industries is biased towards capital-intensive enterprises, while owning a huge legacy of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that did poorly in creating employment. Regardless, the country has a favourable population structure for development. The youth employment rate is high, but the education and training system is "unable to provide the skilled workers demanded by the expanding economy" (p. 160). Those are issues that need to be dealt with by the government to avoid the middle-income trap.

The background analysis for the achievement of Vietnam and its issues regarding employment creation is set out in the first part of the book. In the chapters on economic and human development performance, the book presents the success of Vietnam since 1990, where rapid economic growth has contributed to recognition of legitimacy and rights of private sectors and pro-trade reform. In addition, Vietnam's human development performance is presented through the improvement of UNDP's human development index (HDI), in achieving the millennium development goals (MDGs) and low inequality. Its employment performance is very good. Its unemployment rate is one of the lowest in Southeast Asia (p. 27).

Beyond official statistics, however, the book rightly points to the weaknesses of the employment situation of Vietnam. The vulnerability of employment is high even with low unemployment rate as more than two-thirds of the employed population works with little or no pay for their family businesses. Youth unemployment accounted for 45 per cent of all unemployment and employment growth lagged behind population growth. Wage inequality is large between the two biggest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, and other regions, and between different business sectors. The quality of employment is questionable since employment is largely in the informal sector. On top of that, employment growth is lower than the growth in output, as estimated by various studies. …

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