Human development and poverty reduction: progress and challenges in low middle income Viet Nam

Latest Human Development and Multidimensional Poverty data shows Viet Nam’s continued progress and suggests key challenges in reducing disparities; gender gaps; and carbon dioxide emission.

October 18, 2018

UNDP and national experts analyze and discuss HDI and MPI statistcal updates

Ha Noi 17 October 2018- Viet Nam has been making good progress in Human Development and Multidimensional Poverty Reduction but challenges remain in reducing disparities at sub-national levels, and among population groups, in closing gender gaps, as well as addressing environmental problems related to carbon dioxide emission and biodiversity.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) conveyed these messages while presenting the latest statistical updates on Viet Nam’s Human Development Indices and Indicators (released by UNDP Human Development Report Office on 14 September 2018) and 2018 Global Multidimensional Poverty statistics (jointly released by UNDP and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) at the University of Oxford on 20 September 2018) and international comparisons today. UNDP experts shared data and in-depth analyses on key human development and multidimensional poverty current conditions and trends in Viet Nam in comparison with some selected countries.

The presentation marks the International Day for Eradication of Poverty (IDEP), which focuses on the theme: “Coming together with those furthest behind to build an inclusive world of universal respect for human rights and dignity”.

“1.3 billion people still live in multidimensional poverty, meaning they are not just poor in terms of income, they are also lacking in health, education, and living standards. And they risk falling behind further when faced with conflict, sickness, unemployment, or natural disaster,” Mr. Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, highlighted in his IDEP message. “As this year’s theme reminds us, ensuring access to basic needs like water, food, shelter, or safety will also give back some basic human rights and dignity to millions of people”.

“The theme of International Poverty Eradication Day 2018 clearly links addressing extreme poverty with human rights pushing us to move beyond income poverty to focus on dignity, capabilities and choices of those most left behind. And this is where the multi-dimensional poverty makes a difference,” Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Country Director in Viet Nam, said at the Briefing. “Ensuring the access of people, women, and children most left behind to basic social services and removing all forms of deprivation, are fundamental to the respect for human rights and dignity”.

 “Viet Nam can be proud of its remarkable progress in reducing multi-dimensional poverty, lifting 6 million people out of poverty in only 4 years between 2012 and 2016,” Ms. Wiesen said. “The challenge now is addressing persistent poverty concentrated among ethnic minorities in geographically challenging environments”.

 Impressive progress in human development and multidimensional poverty reduction

Viet Nam’s Human Development Index (HDI) ranks upper end of the Medium Human Development. With the HDI value of 0.694 in 2017, Viet Nam ranks 116th out of 189 countries (the same rank as in 2016). It needs to obtain only additional 0.006 points to join the High Human Development group.

Viet Nam is doing well in Health and Education dimensions but lagging on the Income component of the HDI. Viet Nam’s Life Expectancy at birth is 76.5 years – second in the Asia and the Pacific region, after the Republic of Korea. Mean Years of Schooling is 8.2 – higher than the average of East Asia and Pacific region.

Turning to the 2018 global multidimensional poverty statistics, they show important progress towards achieving the SDG1 on poverty. Viet Nam’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) value is 0.0197 and the country ranks 31st out of 105 countries. Viet Nam multidimensional poverty incidence of 5.0% is better than most of the countries in East Asia and Pacific region, just below Thailand (0.79%) and China (4.02%).

“Viet Nam’s human development index (HDI) growth rate of 1.41 percent since 1990 is just four spaces shy of the High Human Development group.  With accelerated efforts to reduce disparities at subnational levels and among population groups, we believe that Viet Nam could enter the High Human Development group very soon,” said the UNDP Country Director.

Challenges remain ahead in ensuring no one is left behind

Viet Nam’s remarkable progress in Human Development comes with relatively less increase in inequality as compared to many other countries in the Asia and the Pacific region. Viet Nam’s inequality adjusted human development index (IHDI) shows there is 17.3 percent loss in human development index - less than the average of medium human development group (25.1%) but higher than the average of East Asia and Pacific region (15.6 %). It should also be noted that the national averages may mask disparities at subnational levels and population groups. The National Human Development Report in 2015 highlighted big gaps between Viet Nam’s cities and provinces in HDI. For example, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang have similar HDI values of Very High Human Development countries such as Poland and Croatia while Ha Giang and Lai Chau have HDI values similar to the Low Human Development countries such as Ghana and Guatemala.

In term of Gender Inequality Index (GII), Viet Nam ranks 67 out of 160 countries, with the GII value of 0.304 - close to average of High Human Development group (0.289). Moving forward, Viet Nam needs to close the gaps in education component, where there is 11.5 percentage points between adult women and adult men in the secondary school attainment. This together with an increase in female share of graduates in science, mathematics, engineering, manufacturing and construction at tertiary level (currently 15.4 percent) may help enhance Viet Nam’s comparative advantages in the context of Industrial Revolution 4.0.

While 2018 global multidimensional poverty statistics shows Viet Nam’s remarkable progress at the national average level, its disaggregated data reveals substantial disparities at subnational levels and among population groups. Multidimensional poverty incidence is 2.1% in urban area whereas it is 6.45% in rural area. The highest multidimensional poverty rate is in Northern Uplands and Mekong River Delta (9.6%) followed by the Central Highlands (9.4%). National multidimensional poverty data shows very large disparities among population groups. Multidimensional poverty incidence among Kinh majority was only 6.4% in 2016, compared to 76.2% among H’Mong ethnic minority; 37.5% - Dzao; and 24% - Khmer.

The 2018 HDI Statistical Updates also provides data for countries in the areas of forest coverage, carbon dioxide emission and related mortality rates and biodiversity. While Viet Nam ranks 7th out of 181 countries in terms of forest coverage, its ranks are among the lowest in carbon dioxide emissions (80 out of 189 countries) and in the Red List Index (165th out of 189 countries). These are areas for priority action.

Key links:

Human Development Indices and Indicators - 2018 Statistical Updates (global):

Human Development Indices and Indicators - Viet Nam's 2018 Statistical Updates

For more information, please contact: 

Nguyen Viet Lan, UNDP Communication Analyst,

Email:, phone: 84-24-38500158