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1. Introduction

Gender equality is an important development goal of Viet Nam's political establishment.

In Viet Nam, an essential government policy focus is on improving the status of women. President Ho Chi Minh, the founder of modern Viet Nam, exhorted his countrymen to discard "historical" prejudices and injustices against women. In 1946, the country's first constitution enshrined gender equality in the broadest of terms. Since then the political establishment has repeatedly affirmed gender equality as a central development goal including the recent Decision of the Prime Minister (19/2002/QD-TTg) approving the National Strategy for the advancement of women in Viet Nam to the year 2010. In Viet Nam, the constitutional and official view of gender equality in principle is quite broad and is sought both in the workplace and at home.

On-going monitoring of gender equality should be an important part of policy-making.

In all countries, it is important that monitoring and evaluating progress towards gender equality is an on-going part of overall policy analysis and policy-making.

A review of the existing conditions of gender differences can guide gender responsive policy interventions.

Therefore, even though the Government and Communist Party of Viet Nam are committed to build an egalitarian social order it is still necessary to analyse the current differences between men and women, girls and boys. This situational analysis should highlight gender differences that reflect discriminatory individual choices and attempt to assess the extent to which they are the result of gender-biased incentives in the economy and social norms and values regarding gender roles. A review of the existing conditions of gender differences allows an assessment of the limited effectiveness of existing policies and consideration of the need for alternative policy interventions to correct continuing gender imbalances.

1.1. Technical issues

This report synthesises results from two detailed analytical reports on gender in Viet Nam.

The report is a synthesis of findings from two reports analysing data from the second Viet Nam Living Standards Survey conducted in 1997-98 (VLSS II).

The first report entitled Viet Nam through the lens of gender: Five years later by J. Desai is a statistical analysis of gender differences in the social and economic spheres using data from VLSS II. On occasion comparison is made with the situation in 1992-93 as reflected in VLSS I.

The second report, entitled Living conditions of women in Viet Nam (1997-98) by E. Barrios is a multivariate analysis of VLSS II data for the variable determinants of living conditions and poverty.

There are a few technical and data constraints that should be taken into consideration when interpreting results of this gender analysis.

Interpreting the findings of these reports in a meaningful way requires paying attention to several points. First, the sample of households interviewed in survey sample does slightly under-represent households headed by very young adults, and has an older age distribution than the population. For this reason some caution is warranted, especially when interpreting change between 1992-93 and 1997-98.

Second, while the VLSS does provide individual level information on education, health, nutrition and employment, it does not provide information on individual level consumption, control over income or individual asset ownership, which are necessary to analyse intra-household allocation of resources. Nevertheless, this report makes use of the VLSS data significantly to look at differences between individual men and women, boys and girls, and in other cases between households and enterprises headed by men and women.

Third, in order to appreciate the foundation of gender inequality, it is necessary to pay close attention to household characteristics such as household composition and internal household interactions. In Viet Nam, almost all individuals live in households with other individuals, in which there is some sharing of individual resources and income. This is viewed as "intra-household" allocation of resources. Well-being of men and women depends greatly on how intra-household resource allocation decisions are made, how asset ownership is defined and how much control individuals have over jointly produced income. The VLSS data alone are not sufficient to fully analyse these intra-household allocations but nevertheless provide important insights.

1.2. Structure of report

Section 2 examines the definitions and types of households and the association of gender and the household head to general poverty indicators. Section 3 examines gender differences in means of income generation and work time allocations. Section 4 examines the social sectors of education, nutrition, health and use of health care. Section 5 examines the interrelationships of the economic and social spheres in determining gender inequalities in living standards. Section 6 presents recommendations for a broad gender-responsive policy framework. The final section concludes the report.

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