Poverty leading concern in Vietnam despite low wealth gap awareness

By Phan Anh   April 2, 2019 | 08:20 pm PT
Poverty leading concern in Vietnam despite low wealth gap awareness
Children fish at a river in the countryside of Vietnam. Photo by Shutterstock/M2020
Poverty remains a top concern among Vietnamese people, according to a report evaluating the country’s public administrative procedures.

The 2018 Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI 2018) report says poverty and hunger, economic growth and corruption are the three top concerns of Vietnamese citizens.

The report, which surveyed around 14,300 people across 63 provinces and municipalities in Vietnam, found that 25 percent of respondents said their most pressing concerns were poverty, 9 percent said economic growth and 7 percent corruption.

Women were 10 percent more likely than men to report poverty as the most pressing concern, the report said.

Poverty is also more likely to be the top concern for respondents in the lower monthly income brackets. About 90 percent of respondents reported earnings of less than VND20 million ($862) a month, with only 8 percent reporting monthly incomes between VND20 million and VND40 million. More than 50 percent of respondents reported making less than VND12 million a month.

Ironically, the report also showed that a large proportion of respondents did not feel that the current rich-poor gap in Vietnam was a significant problem. Only 33 percent of respondents said the gap was either large or very large, while the rest thought that the gap was either narrow or neither narrow nor large. Notably, poorer respondents were no more likely than richer ones to view inequality as an important concern, the report said.

Respondents in the higher monthly income brackets, while standing to gain less from wealth redistribution efforts, were more supportive of paying more taxes than their poorer counterparts. There was a positive correlation between a person’s monthly income and his/her likelihood of supporting paying higher taxes, the report showed.

The data suggested a complex relationship between concerns about poverty, attitudes towards economic inequality and wealth redistribution among Vietnamese people.

Poorer respondents might be skeptical about tax revenues actually reaching the people who need them the most, or that richer respondents are less likely to be targeted by poverty reduction programs, the report said, noting that these speculations needed further exploration.

Despite boasting a record-breaking GDP growth of 7.08 percent last year, nine million Vietnamese people are still living in extreme poverty, earning less than $2 per day, according to a World Bank report.

While poverty rates are dropping, there are more people falling back into poverty, Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Ngoc Dung said last year.

"Poverty reduction is not steady, and the gap between the rich and the poor has not been decreased, especially in the northern mountains and central highlands," he said.

Vietnam defines poor households as those with income per member of less than VND700,000 ($30) a month in rural areas and VND900,000 ($38.7) in cities.

The country currently also has 142 ultra-rich individuals, those with a net worth of above $30 million, seven more than the number in 2018, according to Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2019.

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