Gender and Land Rights Database


In 2007, the population was estimated at 86 108 000, of which 50 percent were women (1). Seventy-two percent of the population lived in rural areas (1). In 1999, women accounted for 51 percent of the rural population (2). Population density in 2005 was estimated at 253 persons per square kilometre (3). The Kinh is the main ethnic group accounting for 86.2 percent of the population; over 50 ethnic minorities account for the rest (4).

In 2007, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was US$68.6 billion, while the per capita GDP was US$806 (5). Although agriculture’s share of the economic output has shrunk from about 25 percent in 2000 to less than 20 percent in 2008, agriculture still plays an important role in the economy, employing 55.6 percent of the labour force in 2008 and accounting for 22 percent of the GDP (6). Industry accounted for 39.9 percent of the GDP and services accounted for 38.1 percent (5). The introduction of the Doi moi reform in 1989 brought about significant changes to the economy, supporting the transition from central planning to a market economy, the implementation of an open-door policy and the adoption of new labour relations (7). In the rural sector, the Doi moi introduced the de-collectivization of agriculture and the return to self-managed family farming (8). From being a net importer of rice in the eighties, the country is now the second largest rice exporter in the world (7). Agricultural exports accounted for 26.5 percent of all exports in 2003-2005 (9). Agricultural products include paddy rice, coffee, rubber, cotton, tea, all of which are also main export products (5).

With a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.720 in 2006, the country ranks 115th out of 182 countries (5). Despite its recent economic development, 21.5 percent of the population lived under the US$1 per day poverty line in 2006 (10). In 2004, 14 percent of the population was undernourished (10). Life expectancy at birth in 2007 was estimated at 76.1 years for women and at 72.3 years for men (5). Literacy rates are generally high and totalled 86.9 percent of literate women and 93.9 percent of literate men in 1997-2007 (5).

In 2007, women accounted for 49 percent of the economically active population (1). Women contribute substantially to the agriculture sector: 65 percent of economically active women are engaged in agriculture, comprising 49.5 percent of the entire agricultural labour force (1) and not including rural women’s unpaid work in farm and family economies (11). Women are the key source of labour in rice production and also accounted for 60-70 percent of the workforce in food processing, including fish processing, and marketing, as of 2005 (12).

Under the 1988 Land Law, the households that had previously farmed land as members of large cooperatives and collectives were granted individual long-term use rights (8). In 1993, under the second Land Law, official land titles were introduced and land transactions were permitted for the first time (13). By 2002, agricultural land had been allotted to approximately 12 million farmer households and agricultural land use certificates had been granted to 91.74 percent of the households, covering about 87.02 percent of the agricultural land area (12). The majority of these certificates were issued to men heads of households, while only 10-12 percent were registered in the name of women who headed households because they were single or widowed (12). The third Land Law, enacted in 2003, is a comprehensive legislation which aims at creating transparency in land use and management and facilitating the development of a property market by setting forth provisions regarding the allocation and lease of state land and the organization of the administrative machinery (14).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography