Thanh Thi Thach, 41, a farmer in Tra Vinh Province in southern Vietnam remembers how her family only used to harvest one crop per year. The lack of water for irrigation and electricity prevented them from growing more crops.
“Life was very hard back then,” Thach said. “Now the productivity has been raised, thanks to new varieties and state-funded canals, which enable us to grow two or three crops of rice per year.”
Thach is among an estimated 30 million Vietnamese people who have been lifted out of poverty in the past 20 years.
The poverty headcount in Vietnam fell from nearly 60 percent in the early 1990s to 20.7(*) percent in 2010, according to a new World Bank report titled "Well Begun, Not Yet Done: Vietnam’s Remarkable Progress on Poverty Reduction and the Emerging Challenges".
The country has also made remarkable progress in education. Primary and secondary enrollments for the poor have reached more than 90 percent and 70 percent respectively.
Thach has never been to school, but she hopes that her grandchildren will finish high school and get better jobs with sustainable incomes.
“More knowledge, higher pay,” she expressed.
Rising levels of education and diversification into off-farm activities, such as working in construction sites, factories or domestic housework have also contributed to reducing poverty in the country.
“These achievements are very impressive,” said Valerie Kozel, Senior Economist for the World Bank and lead author of the newly released report. “But growth has slowed in recent years due to macro instability and external shocks, inequality is rising, and ethnic minority poverty remains persistently high. The remaining poor are harder to reach; they face difficult challenges—of isolation, limited assets, low levels of education, poor health conditions.”
The report emphasizes that the prevailing poverty of the ethnic minority in the country is of particular concern. Although Vietnam’s 53 ethnic minority groups make up less than 15 percent of the population, they accounted for nearly 50 percent of the poor in 2010. Most minorities continue to reside in more isolated and less productive upland regions of Vietnam.