Viet Nam is well placed to regain Human Development momentum: UNDP

September 9, 2022

The launch of the global 2021/22 Human Development Report (HDR), "Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World" in Viet Nam on 9 September 2022.

UNDP Viet Nam

Professor Jonathan Pincus, UNDP Senior Economist, at the launch in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.

UNDP Viet Nam

Ha Noi, 9 September 2022 - Unlike most developing countries, Viet Nam managed to sustain economic growth during the most difficult years of the pandemic. Although the average pace of growth slowed, and vulnerable groups and individuals suffered periods of real hardship, a major reversal of human development progress was avoided. Viet Nam’s HDI value of 0.703 in 2021 was essentially unchanged from 2019 (0.704), and Viet Nam climbed two places in the global ranking from 117 out of 189 countries in 2019 to 115 out of 191 countries in 2021.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) made this statement at the launch of the global 2021/22 Human Development Report (HDR), "Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World" here in Viet Nam.

The theme of this year’s report is the multiple crises facing the world and our collective capacity to mitigate their impact on human development. Recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic has begun, but its effects are still being felt in every region. Globally, between 600 million and a billion people were infected by the virus, and more than six million people lost their lives. Job and income loss imposed severe hardship on the poor and near poor, and disruption to schools and universities resulted in a loss of momentum in education and training that will take years to reverse. Healthcare and community services were overwhelmed, quality of health care services largely declined.

Largely because of the pandemic, The Human Development Index has declined globally for two years in a row for the first time in the 32-year history of the index. Human development has fallen back to its 2016 levels, reversing much of the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Over 90 percent of countries registered a decline in their HDI score in either 2020 or 2021 and more than 40 percent declined in both years, signaling that the crisis is still deepening for many.

A series of new and pre-existing crises have compounded the negative effects of the pandemic and slowed the recovery. Extreme weather events associated with climate change, armed conflict in Europe, soaring energy and food prices, rising protectionism and political instability have complicated efforts to regain development momentum lost during the pandemic.

The world is scrambling to respond to back-to-back crises. We have seen with the cost of living and energy crises that, while it is tempting to focus on quick fixes like subsidizing fossil fuels, immediate relief tactics are delaying the long-term systemic changes we must make,” says Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator.

The Human Development Report 2022 argues that these multiple sources of uncertainty interact to unsettle life in unprecedented ways. While some countries are beginning to get back on their feet, recovery is uneven and partial, further widening inequalities in human development. Latin America, the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have been hit particularly hard.

The report charts a course out of uncertainty and toward a new, sustainable and equitable development trajectory. The report recommends policies that focus on investment in renewable energy, preparedness and insurance, including social protection, to mitigate the impact of uncertainty and to build capacity needed to respond to new challenges.

Viet Nam has been a member of the High Human Development Group since 2019. The HDI combines gross national income per capita, life expectancy at birth and mean and expected years of schooling into a single index to provide a generalized measure of human development.

Viet Nam has seen steady progress in all three dimensions of the HDI since the 1990s. The rate of increase in the HDI has slowed over the past decade, mainly because Viet Nam is now a richer country with relatively high levels of life expectancy and educational attainment for its level of income.

Viet Nam’s Gender Inequality Index, which measures the loss of human development due to inequality between males and females, continued to improve in 2021. Viet Nam’s GII was 0.296, giving the country a ranking of 71 out of 170 countries. GII considered reproductive health, empowerment and labor force participation. Viet Nam performs well in terms of maternal mortality, education of girls and female labor force participation, but representation of women in the parliament remains low.

With regard to PHDI which discounts the HDI for pressures on the planet, Viet Nam is only deducted by 5.8% due to carbon dioxide emissions and material consumption per capita. However, Viet Nam's small deduction does not mean that we have done well in reducing CO2 emissions, but just that we do not have many industries that emit this gas compared to some other countries.

Looking ahead, Viet Nam is well placed to regain the loss of momentum resulting from Covid-19 and manage the uncertainties associated with the cascading crises described in the HDR,” said Professor Jonathan Pincus, UNDP Senior Economist, at the launch in Ha Noi. “The rapid and universal roll-out of vaccines has enabled life to return to normal and reduced pressure on hospitals, clinics and schools. Government policy has been flexible and adaptive, which has made it possible for industries like tourism and transport to post an impressive recovery in 2022”.

UNDP also noted that there would be many challenges for Viet Nam in the coming time. Climate change is the biggest one. It is anticipated to displace people and their livelihoods, seriously affecting the level of human development in areas that are most vulnerable to climate change.

Secondly, Viet Nam’s economic development depends on growth trends in the rest of the world. War in Europe, rising prices and disruption to global trade patterns are important sources of uncertainty. UNDP recommended Viet Nam to increase investment in infrastructure, education, training and research to increase national resilience and capacity to adjust quickly and flexibly to changing global conditions.

Importantly, Viet Nam’s social protection system must be modernized to help all citizens to manage economic and natural disaster risks and sustain living standards even during difficult times. The experience of the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that gaps have opened up in national social protection and social assistance programs. Digitalization of social assistance registration and delivery and basing these systems on universal citizenship rather than local residence will enable them to respond more equitably and quickly during times of heightened risk.


To learn more about the 2022 Human Development Report and UNDP’s analysis on navigating the new uncertainty complex, visit

For more information, please contact:

Nguyen Viet Lan, UNDP Communication Lead, email:, phone: 0914436769

Panel discussion with UNDP experts at the launch in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.

UNDP Viet Nam