Beyond the Crisis: The impact of the financial crisis on women in Vietnam

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This research report on Vietnam is one of four country case studies that were commissioned by Oxfam GB to assess the impact of the global economic crisis on women in South East Asia. It concludes that women in the export-manufacturing sector, including the garment and textile industries, have been hardest hit by the crisis both economically and socially. Women migrant workers have experienced a double hit with a reduction in remittances and have become more vulnerable to problems such as trafficking and sexual harassment. Many women in Vietnam have moved from the formal sector to the informal sector, and rely on strategies such as job-sharing, informal credit, social networking and community-based assistance for survival. Some of the government’s short-term measures ignore gender-specific concerns and miss important targets, particularly poor and newly poor women. This report recommends a shift in emphasis from macro-level policy solutions to micro-level ones, with an increased focus on vulnerable women.
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    www.oxfam.org.uk  Beyond the Crisis The impact of the financial crisis on women in Vietnam Aphitchaya Nguanbanchong    Oxfam GB in East Asia February 2010 OXFAM RESEARCH REPORT    Beyond the Crisis , Oxfam GB Research Report, February 2010 2 Acknowledgements I would like to thank an extraordinary group of people who have dedicated their time and contributed to the success of this report. This report was prepared under the overall supervision of Mr. Cherian K. Mathews, Regional Policy and Campaigns Manager of Oxfam GB in East Asia.   Special acknowledgements also go to Irish Aid for their support. The research would not have been possible without their collaboration. I would also like to thank the staff of Oxfam GB Vietnam for their helpful   comments and suggestions,   especially Mr. Steve Price-Thomas, Country Director, and Ms. Le Kim Dung, Programme Coordinator for Advocacy and Communications. I expressly thank Ms. Hoang Lan Huong, Programme Support Officer, Advocacy & Communication and Ms. Dinh Huong Thuy, Programme Intern – Advocacy and Communication, who arranged interviews and provided me with instrumental documents and information; their support is gratefully acknowledged. The following experts shared their knowledge and experience as well as   useful information: Mr. Le Xuan Nghia, Vice Chairman of Financial Committee of Ministry of Finance; Mr. Nguyen Thang, Director of Center for Analysis & Forecast, the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS); Ms. Nguyen Thu Phuong, Researcher, Centre for Analysis and Forecast (VASS); Ms. Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy, Director of Research Center for Female Labour and Gender, Institute for Labour Science and Social Affairs, MOLISA; Mr. Hoang Xuan Thanh, Director of Ageless; and Mr. Nguyen Tam Giang, Consultant, Ageless. There may be mistakes in this report due to the limitations of the timeframe. Your comments, suggestions, and recommendations are appreciated. Thank you very much. Aphitchaya Nguanbanchong Oxfam GB in East Asia November 2009  Beyond the Crisis , Oxfam GB Research Report, February 2010 3 Contents Acknowledgements ..........................................................................................2 Executive summary ...........................................................................................4 Introduction   ........................................................................................................6  Overview .............................................................................................................6 Framework and methodology ......................................................................... 6 Section outline .................................................................................................... 8 1 Vietnam’s economic outlook and the current economic crisis ...............9 1.1 Macroeconomic overview ............................................................................9 1.2 Impacts on the real sector ...........................................................................10 2 Situation in the labour market: gender perspectives ..............................13 2.1 Export-oriented manufacturing .................................................................13 2.2 Gender composition of the labour market ...............................................15 3 Beyond the crisis: women in the vulnerable sectors ...............................19 3.1 Women in export-oriented manufacturing: reallocation from formal to informal work .....................................................................................................19 3.2 Women migrants ..........................................................................................20 3.3 Women in agriculture ..................................................................................20 Part 4: Gender-differentiated impacts of the global economic crisis: case study .....................................................................................................................21 4.1 Female workers dealing with job losses and reduced income ..............21 4.2 Female migrants and falling remittances: further exacerbating poverty ....22 4.3 Women migrants losing jobs in craft villages ..........................................24 Part 5: Policy responses from gender-aware perspectives .........................26 5.1 Short-term measures: economic and fiscal stimulus packages .............26 5.2 Long-term policies to ensure social security ............................................29 5.3 Gender policy and gender law in Vietnam ..............................................30 Conclusion and policy recommendations ....................................................32 References ...........................................................................................................34  Beyond the Crisis , Oxfam GB Research Report, February 2010 4 Executive summary In Vietnam, women are over-represented in the export sector and live in deteriorating conditions due to the current global economic crisis. A growing body of evidence suggests that female workers are the hardest hit and most vulnerable. Their living conditions have become dismal due to their loss of employment; reduction in income and consumption; decline in the quality of their food, reduction in their leisure time; difficulties in paying their children’s school fees and for healthcare services; and increases in overall household burden and debt. The objectives of this study are 1) to assess and identify the gender-differentiated impacts of the current crisis in both economic and social development aspects; 2) to study and analyse the gendered nature of the responses of the government and national institutions; and 3) to develop a set of recommendations and policy implications for the government, national institutions and donors, based on the impacts and responses. The research provides an analysis based on the national research field survey and development of case studies, collected from a collaborative research field survey on the impacts of the economic crisis on poverty in Vietnam. The work was fully implemented by the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS), with support from Oxfam GB, the World Bank and ActionAid, and carried out throughout 2009. By using the collected survey information, a number of conclusions have emerged as follows: 1) Women in export-oriented manufacturing, particularly the garment and textile industries, have been the hardest hit, both economically and socially, by the crisis. 2) Female migrants have experienced a double hit with falling remittances, as their lower net income and disadvantaged socio-economic status make them even more vulnerable to social problems such as trafficking and sexual harassment; and 3) In non-agricultural sectors, women are losing jobs in the craft villages which rely significantly on export orders. Women in this sector are suffering a heavy blow, as there has been a sudden decrease in international orders. With limited sources of official support, these crisis-affected female workers have moved from the formal to the informal sector and rely on informal sources such as job sharing arrangements among family and friends; informal credit; social networks; and community-based assistance. Although it is not possible to ensure that these informal coping mechanisms are sufficient to maintain their level of prior income, at the very least these measures provide very basic means of subsistence and ease the lives of the poor. The global financial crisis has generated attention in policy circles and created a number of short-term measures for the Government of Vietnam. However, it is quite clear that there is no so-called ‘all-in-one solution’ to cope with the crisis. In practice, one of the main weaknesses of the short-term packages is that they ignore gender specific concerns. Moreover, the packages miss the real targets, especially in their impacts on the poor and newly poor women. A central goal at the policy level should be a shift from pro-poor policies at a macro level to those at a micro level and an increased focus on vulnerable women. Again, this research emphasises the importance of helping policy makers to formulate relevant policies to make women visible.
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