Volume 6(2019)

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Due to the Doi Moi policy (economic reform of the 1980s and 1990s), Viet Nam has achieved remarkable economic growth over the past three decades, averaging 7 per cent per year, which moved the country into the middle-income category. Thanks to the growth, studies and data on poverty in Viet Nam 1* show that national poverty rate has reduced over the past three decades, from 58.1 per cent in 1993 to less than 6 per cent in 2018. Based on indicators of income and access to health care, education, clean water and electricity, people’s living standards have increased. The economic growth also brought along the rapid urbanization process taking place in the country’s major cities, especially Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Chi Minh City, the national economic engine as well as a centre for culture, science and technology, has experienced high economic growth that has generated economic opportunities for millions of people and lifted millions of people out of poverty. The city annually attracts hundreds of thousands of migrants who create a boom in the urban population. The highly urbanized city and increasing migration have brought social problems, including gaps between rich versus poor and urban versus rural households. The nature of poverty has become more complex. “Urban poverty” has emerged as a particular issue in the context of poverty reduction in Viet Nam in general and in Ho Chi Minh City in particular.

This paper analyses the poverty in Ho Chi Minh City with a multi-dimensional perspective. In addition to living conditions, the report discusses accessibility to basic services and public transport as well as the policies and individual capacity to overcome poverty.


Impoverished households are found in different parts of the city and, as noted, categorized as poor and near-poor. Due to the country’s economic development, the poor population has decreased over the past few decades. Most of the remaining poor households are those whose members are old, chronically ill or live with a disability and cannot go to work; they also include people who rely on or look after such disadvantaged people. Poor households are largely those in which one person who goes to work must look after other members who are children, ill or old. They often are single mothers working in a factory and, on average, raising two or more children.

Many of the urban poor are migrants who come as a family or individuals to the city. They work in industrial parks or in services and earn more income in Ho Chi Minh City than in their previous residence. The city authorities consider them as outsiders and do not allow them to benefit from the same policies as local people because they fear these migrants want to settle permanently in their locality. They are usually not allowed to access information on such benefits as housing support and poor household allowances. They are not entitled to be registered on the Poor Household List and cannot benefit from the poverty-reduction policies, at least not until they have lived in the city for more than six months. If they are poor and would like to benefit from the poverty policies in Ho Chi Minh City, they must obtain certification from the authorities where they previously resided that they are not receiving any benefits there.

1. The United Nations Development Programme, Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs and Viet Nam Academy of Science, Multi-dimensional Poverty Assessment Report in Viet Nam (Hanoi: UNDP, 2016); UNDP, MOLISA and Irish Aid, General Report on Poverty Reduction Studies in Viet Nam (Hanoi, UNDP, 2015); Viet Nam and Ho Chi Minh City Statistics Yearbook. Data on poor households (multidimensional poverty criteria) from the National Poverty Reduction Programme. The World Bank, World Bank in Viet Nam-Overview (Worldbank.org/en/country/Vietnam/overview)