FAO in Viet Nam

Viet Nam at a glance

Viet Nam is a development success story. Rapid economic growth, driven by a raft of reforms since 1986 that saw a shift from a centrally-planned to a market economy, has transformed the country from one of the poorest in the world to a lower middle-income nation.

This journey to becoming one of the most dynamic emerging countries in the East Asia region, saw more than 45 million people lifted out of poverty during 2002 and 2018 and poverty rates sharply declining from 70 percent to less than 6 percent.

The country’s economy remains robust in the wake of this headline growth, after weathering macroeconomic headwinds in the mid-2000s, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast at 6.5 percent through to 2021. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has emerged in recent years as a key source of economic development, jobs and diversified exports, with the record US$19 billion in FDI disbursement in 2018 accounting for almost 24 percent of total investment in the economy.

This success has had transformative impacts on many of Viet Nam’s 97 million people, the third largest population in ASEAN and 15th globally, as reflected in a broad spectrum of development indicators.

The country continues to outperform most nations at similar stages of development. In health, the maternal mortality ratio fell from 139 to 54 deaths per 100,000 live births and infant mortality dropped from 44 deaths per 1,000 live births to 16.7 during 1990-2015. Viet Nam’s universal health coverage index is at 73 - higher than regional and global averages - with 87 percent of the population covered.

Vietnamese today are not only healthier, they are living longer with a life expectancy of 76 years the highest in the region for countries with similar income levels. In education, coverage and learning outcomes are high and equitably achieved in primary schools — evidenced by remarkably high scores in the Program for International Student Assessment in 2012 and 2015, where the performance of Vietnamese students exceeded that of many Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

This healthier and better educated population means citizens are more productive, with Viet Nam ranking 48th out of 157 countries on the Human Capital Index (HCI) in 2018, second in ASEAN behind Singapore and the highest among middle-income countries.

Despite these impressive achievements, Viet Nam today faces a range of intensifying challenges that threaten some of these hard-won development gains.

While many have benefited from this dynamic socio-economic development, others continue to live in conditions of deprivation and exclusion. These widening disparities are driven by ethnicity, gender, place of origin and disability. Ethnic minorities remain particularly disadvantaged and comprise more than 70 percent (seven million) of the nation’s poor, of which the vast majority (95 percent) live in rural areas. Meanwhile, one-in-five children (5.5 million) still experience at least two deprivations in education, health, nutrition, shelter, water and sanitation, or social inclusion. 

Rapid growth and industrialization have also come at a cost to the environment and natural assets. Unsustainable exploitation of assets such as sand, fisheries and timber could negatively affect potential for future and long-term growth. Energy consumption has tripled over the past decade, growing faster than output.

Urbanization, economic and population growth are causing rapidly increasing waste management and pollution challenges. Waste generation is expected to double in less than 15 years, while Viet Nam is among the 10 countries globally most affected by air pollution. Water pollution has significant costs on productivity of key sectors and human health, with the Mekong river one of 10 in-land rivers responsible for 90 percent of global marine plastic pollution. Intensifying rural-urban migration continues to impact on the social fabric of already vulnerable rural communities.

These development challenges are compounded by the increasingly severe impacts of climate change and natural disasters. As one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change, two-thirds of the population is at risk of climate-related shocks. By 2050, an expected rise in average temperatures by 1-2 degrees Celsius will likely result in higher incidences of droughts with greater intensity and increased rainfall leading to a one-metre rise in sea levels along coastal regions. This will have life-changing impacts on lowland regions with no adaptation measures, with nearly half of the Mekong Delta region – critical for food security and the nation’s economy – particularly at risk. For communities, this will mean reduced incomes and crop yields, degraded natural resources, loss of assets and infrastructure, reduced mobility with no access to work or services and increased human diseases, with resulting decreased labour productivity.

In response, the Government of Viet Nam is committed to addressing these broad spectrum of challenges head-on with alignment of its long-term development strategy with the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, it is committed to mainstreaming sustainable development principles into the 2021-2030 Social and Economic Development Strategy and 2021-2025 Social and Economic Development Plan.

To achieve these targets, however, Viet Nam still requires technical and human resources, financial support, as well as strengthened cooperation and exchanges of knowledge with the international community. In working for a better tomorrow for current and future generations, Viet Nam is committed to contributing to global efforts aimed at leaving no one and no country behind.