Vietnam well placed to regain Human Development momentum: UNDP

Vietnam climbed two places from the 117 out of the 189 countries in 2019 to the 115 out of the 191 countries in 2021 in the global 2021/22 Human Development Report (HDR) freshly released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Professor Jonathan Pincus, UNDP Senior Economist, speaking at the launch of the report in Hanoi (Photo:

The country’s Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.703 in 2021 was essentially unchanged from the 0.704 in 2019.

According to the UNDP, unlike most of the developing countries, Vietnam managed to sustain economic growth during the most difficult years of the COVID-19 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.

Vietnam 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.

The nation 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 it is now a richer country with relatively high levels of life expectancy and educational attainment for its level of income.

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

“Looking ahead, Vietnam 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 of the report in Hanoi. “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 will be many challenges for Vietnam 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, Vietnam’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 Vietnam 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, the nation’s social protection system must be modernised to help all citizens manage economic and natural disaster risks and sustain living standards even during difficult times. The experience of the pandemic demonstrated that gaps have opened up in national social protection and social assistance programmes. Digitalisation 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.