Jobs are the foundation of economic and social development, with significant implications for gender equality. Jobs can improve livelihoods and reduce poverty, promote economic growth, and bring together people from different social and ethnic backgrounds. They are a means to promote gender equity and transform it into social and economic progress. Jobs increase women’s ability to make their own choices, support their families, and participate more actively in their communities.
Vietnam has made substantial progress in gender equality measures, with the improvement of women’s jobs. Although there are still several persistent gaps, Vietnam has gained a solid reputation as a country with a relatively high level of gender equality, including in the area of women’s economic empowerment.
However, increasing global trends are expected to create new challenges and opportunities around jobs for Vietnamese women. Those trends are the result of an array of socio-economic and demographic changes that are shaping Vietnam’s future, such as regional and global economic competition, slowing growth in labor productivity, aging, and urbanization. Some changes can benefit women, but if not managed, they could reverse previous gains and increase gender-based disparities.
Progress toward Gender Equality –What does gender look like in the labor market in Vietnam today?
Relative to men, Vietnamese women fare well by some labor market measures. Their participation rate in the labor force is high, with 76% of adult women (ages 15–64) working in the country compared with 49.6% of women globally and 61.1% of women in East Asia and the Pacific. Vietnam is far above the trend line, with the rate of women participating in the labor force much higher than would be expected for a country at its level of development (1).
Working women are more likely to be engaged in contract wage employment, while men dominate non-contracted wage employment. When considering men and women with the same characteristics such as age, level of education, and region, women are 8.8% less likely to hold wage-paying jobs than men, but they are 2% more likely to hold a wage-paying job with a contract than men. This means that working women have greater access to social benefits through their jobs and are guaranteed at least a minimum wage (2).
However, more women are self-employed or do not receive any income for their labors (e.g. unpaid homecare), as compared to men. So, while women have high labor force participation rates in Vietnam, the kind of work that they are doing is less rewarded than the work that men are doing. In the same occupation, same demographic profiles as men, women were earning about 15.4% less than men in 2011. This number dropped to 12.5% in 2014, a positive sign that the gender gap is closing (2). But, nevertheless, there is still the negative aspect of a continuing gender wage gap, which exists more in certain occupations. The emergence of the export-oriented apparel and textiles sector has been a strong source of contracted wage-paying work for women, creating more than one million jobs, most of which were filled by women. Service and commerce are also dominated by women, although they are among the lowest paying sectors. And even there, men earn more than women (3).
Looking at the skill levels in conjunction with jobs, women tend to cluster in low-paying occupations with lower rates of return, and in traditional forms of work. Almost 52% of farm workers were women compared to 48% of farm workers who were men. In addition, about 55% of household enterprise owners were also women compared to 45% who were men (3). Family farmers and household enterprises owners do not receive a wage, instead, are remunerated through their profits. These two types of jobs are low productivity and return earnings that are on average below the minimum wage. Gender segregation also persists at the top of the occupation ladder. Only 25% of managers are women. In 2015, only 22% of firms had a female top manager (4).
Gender earning gap – why it still persists?
Differences in education could plausibly explain earnings gaps. However, in Vietnam, women earn less than men despite having higher levels of education, which is a result of women’s tendency to work in lower paid occupations and industries than men. The question is: Why do women in Vietnam choose to work in lower paid occupations and industries than men?
This occupational segregation may be related to underlying gender disparities. A study in 2018 found that, at the age of 12, Vietnamese girls aspire to higher paid occupations than boys (5). However, these aspirations begin to shift as they become women and men. During postsecondary school, girls begin to cluster into management, education, and health; boys cluster into information technology and the sciences.
Besides, social norms still dictate that women are responsible for the household. In fact, women spend significantly more hours on household work than men. These household responsibilities, with time requirements equivalent to a full-time job, limit women’s access to the labor market. The homecare constraints to bettering women’s jobs may become more intense as an aging population increasingly demands women’s time for eldercare. Jobs requiring long working hours, that are remotely located (requiring long travel), or that offer unusual working hours may not be compatible with household responsibilities, limiting employment options for women. These factors may also push women toward jobs that pay less in exchange for more family-friendly policies, such as family leave and social insurance (6). Even when self-employed or firm owners, to have more flexibility to better balance the work at home, women are pushed into jobs offering lower remuneration.
In addition, women’s traditional role in society is another constraint. According to results from the 2001 World Values Survey, 86% of respondents stated that being a housewife was just as fulfilling as working for pay, and 86% of them also agreed that a woman needed to have children to fulfill their role (7).
While Article 40 of Vietnam Law on Gender Equality mandates nondiscrimination based on gender in hiring, there is still discrimination in recruitment (8). For example, a review of advertisements for top managers and supervisors found that 65% specified a male (gender) requirement for the job (9).
Preparing for a Future of Gender Equality
Reforms are needed to set the stage for more productive, better paid, and higher quality jobs for women. Given the specific situation in Vietnam, the below solutions are recommended to support the country’s national goal for gender equality, especially in the field of employment:
- Promote laws for equality of opportunities. For example, annual leave stipulations should be gender neutral. The introduction of paternity leave into the labor code could lower the cost differential of hiring women versus men.
- Alleviating household constraints, especially due to the aging population, through the development of a comprehensive long-term care system.
- Fostering gender-neutral and female-friendly industry. The rise of the knowledge economy, a growing service economy, and a greater reliance on automation will favor more educated workers. Because women already have higher education levels than men, these jobs should naturally benefit them.
- Providing skills training and mentoring to expand job opportunities for women in the traditionally male dominated STEM-related fields. To ensure the inclusion of women, skills training is the key and must be prioritized. Greater female engagement in STEM can encourage women to diversify their job prospects, explore sectors traditionally dominated by men, and be better prepared for knowledge-intensive labor markets.
- Leverage labor laws and workplace norms to allow men to play more active roles in the household and to be more willing to accept women as their managers. Such a social change is a long process, but labor laws can provide incentives.
- Employ technology to ensure fairness in hiring. Nowadays, technology hasn’t just made it easier to apply for jobs, easier for businesses to find qualified candidates anywhere in the world, it can also reduce systematic discrimination in employment procedures.
Even nowadays, not a single country can claim to have achieved gender equality in the workplace. Unconscious bias, stereotypes and prejudices happen more frequently than we think, especially in male dominated fields, such as finance and information technology but also in female dominated occupations, like professional care and teaching. Studies show that when the recruiting process is anonymous, the bias is effectively reduced. JANZZ.technology has always been devoted to inclusive hiring since its foundation in 2008. This is reflected by the 60% female IT employees at JANZZ. We have proven that non-discriminatory practices lead to better hirings and successful teams. For better results and a more successful workforce, the first step for a candidate in an application process should be guaranteed anonymity. Gender, age, nationality, ethnicity or other personal data not related to the candidate’s skills must be hidden, to avoid clichés and prejudices. We have come so far towards gender equality, but still far from the goal. If you, too, think that there are still major changes to be done, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.janzz.technology. We have the right tools to help you fight for equal opportunities for everyone. Together we can make a difference!
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(1) Demombynes and Testaverde. 2018. Employment Structure and Returns to Skill in Vietnam: Estimates Using the Labor Force Survey. Washington, DC: World Bank.
(2) Cunningham, Wendy; Alidadi, Farima; Buchhave, Helle. 2018. Vietnam’s Future Jobs : The Gender Dimension. World Bank, Hanoi.
(3) World Bank Group. 2019. How to Design the Vietnam Labor Code to Improve Gender Equality. World Bank, Hanoi.
(4) Data is from the Gender Statistics Database, World Bank, Washington, DC (May 2018) https://data.worldbank.org/data-catalog/gender-statistics.
(5) Chowdhury, Iffat; Johnson, Hillary C.; Mannava, Aneesh; Perova, Elizaveta. 2018. Gender Gap in Earnings in Vietnam : Why Do Vietnamese Women Work in Lower Paid Occupations?. Policy Research Working Paper;No. 8433. World Bank, Washington, DC.
(6) Chowdhury, Iffat, Elizaveta Perova, Hillary Johnson, and Aneesh Mannava. 2018. Gender Streaming in Vietnam. Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/World Bank.
(7) Dalton, Russell J., and Nhu-Ngoc T. Ong. The Vietnamese Public in Transition: The 2001 World Values Survey. Irvine, California: Center for the Study of Democracy, University of California.
(8) Based on data from the Women, Business, and the Law database, World Bank, Washington, DC ( May 2018), http://wbl.worldbank.org)
(9) ILO (International Labor Organization) 2016. Asean in Transformation: Perspectives of Enterprises and Students on Future Work. Bureau for Employers’ Activities working paper 11, ILO, Geneva.