According to “Climbing the ladder: Poverty reduction and shared prosperity in Vietnam” report released on April 5th, improving income from highland agriculture can help nation further reduce poverty, which has fallen by almost 4% points since 2014, to 9.8% in 2016. Ethnic minorities - many of them living in highland areas - account for 72% of Vietnam’s poor, and encouraging them to grow more profitable industrial crops may improve their earnings.

“Vietnam has achieved tremendous results in reducing poverty and improving the quality of life for millions. The decline in poverty amongst ethnic minorities is encouraging, and more focused efforts on improving their incomes can further broaden their opportunities and reduce persistent inequalities. The aspirations of those with less opportunity cannot be ignored,” said Mr Ousmane Dione, World Bank Country Director for Vietnam.

Mr Ousmane Dione, World Bank Country Director for Vietnam spoke at the event.
The report, outlining recent trends and patterns of poverty in Vietnam, proposes solutions for that untapped agriculture potential in highland areas where the poor are concentrated. Land use and cropping decisions, for example, contribute more to agriculture income differences between households. Low-income families in highland areas use their land to grow basic crops such as rice or maize instead of raising more profitable crops such as coffee, black pepper, or rubber.

Improving access to credit may help highland farmers make the necessary investments for higher-earning agricultural production. Strengthening earning capacity can help narrow inequalities between groups. The average per capita consumption of ethnic minorities, for example, remains less than 45% of the Kinh and Hoa. Moreover, the poor faces a widening gap in terms of access to upper secondary education and improved water and sanitation.

At the same time, it recognizes that 70% of its population is now classified as economically secure, including the 13% who are now part of the global middle-class. These income classes are growing rapidly, rising by over 20% points between 2010 and 2017.

An average of 1.5 million Vietnamese joined the global middle class each year since 2014, confirming that households continue to climb the economic ladder after escaping poverty. The rise of the consumer class changes society’s aspirations and the focus of the poverty and shared prosperity agenda shifts from combating extreme poverty to effecting broad improvements in the quality of life and supporting the further expansion of the middle class. Rapid job creation and an ongoing transition to wage employment are driving gains in poverty reduction and shared prosperity.

Several areas of strategic priorities to further reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity were suggested, including:     

* Boosting labor productivity and investing in infrastructure to sustain job creation and wage growth without losing competitiveness

* Implementing education reforms designed to equalize opportunities and develop workforce skills

* Spurring agriculture structural transformation through changing farm land use patterns, strengthening land user rights, and improving skills of the poor farmers.

While reducing inequality remains a challenge, the report notes that the number of individuals vulnerable to falling back into poverty declined to only 2% between 2014 and 2016. In contrast, the period saw the middle class expanding by more than 3 million people.

One of the prioritized areas under the new World Bank Group Country Partnership Framework with Vietnam for the period from fiscal year 2018-2022 is inclusive growth, with a specific objective for the “economic integration of the poor and vulnerable groups” under which the Bank will provide support for targeted interventions to expand economic opportunities for people in lagging areas./.