Vietnam: Reforms Needed to Close the Gap in Social Service Access for Migrants

June 16, 2016

HANOI, June 16, 2016 — Vietnam can improve migrants’ access to public services and employment by reducing the time and number of requirements needed for residents to obtain ho khau, or permanent residency, according to a new report by the World Bank and the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences. The report also suggests to reduce differences in service and employment access between those with permanent and temporary registration status.

The report, drawing on data from the 2015 Household Registration Survey and qualitative research, says at least 5.6 million people in the five surveyed provinces in Vietnam lack ho khau, including 36 percent of the population in Ho Chi Minh City and 18 percent in Hanoi. The majority of them work in the private sector, especially in manufacturing and for foreign firms. They have limited access to public schools, buying health insurance or even registering motorcycles.

“This study shows that the ho khau system has created inequality of opportunity for Vietnamese citizens,” said Achim Fock, the World Bank’s Acting Country Director for Vietnam. “Further reforms could ensure that migrants have the same access to schools, health care, and employment in the public sector as everyone else. That will encourage people to move to cities and support Vietnam’s economic growth and structural transformation.”

The ho khau system began 50 years ago as an instrument of public security, economic planning, and control of migration. Citizens have mixed views of the existing ho khau system, and a large majority says the system should be relaxed, because it limits the rights of migrants and induces corruption.

 “The Ho Khau registration system is no longer relevant for managing and controlling the Vietnamese society, which has been undergoing drastic changes toward Doi Moi and international integration,” said Dang Nguyen Anh, Vice President of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences. “The system should be replaced by a more scientific and modern tool to make people's lives easier and inclusive.”

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