Childhood poverty is a complex, multi-dimensional and context-specific problem. This complexity of childhood poverty is not easily captured by available quantitative data. Rather than trying to break new ground, this paper aims to systematically review the literature on child poverty in Vietnam in the context of a more general debate on poverty in Vietnam. Discussion will focus on quantitative perspectives and is broadly divided into four areas:health, nutrition, education and child labour. The overall main findings from literature can be summarised as follows:
- Economic growth has had a large impact on income poverty, including from the point of view of children, but its effects are not strongly felt in all dimensions. It has not played an important role in reducing child malnutrition, at least in the 1990s (Glewwe et al. 2002) but has brought down child labour significantly (Edmonds and Turk 2002).
- Despite broadly improving indicators, there are signs of growing disparities. Most evidence points to a growing divergence in rates of child mortality, malnutrition and access to education between poor and non-poor, rural and urban children and between ethnic Vietnamese and ethnic minorities (Wagstaff and Nguyen 2002; Thang and Popkin 2003; Bhushan et al. 2000).
- Child labour continues to appear to have negative effects, even if not necessarily in all dimensions of child deprivation studied. It does not appear to have short-term effects on child health, but the risk of illness increases in the long-term (O'Donnell et al. 2004). Children who work are less likely to attend school and to have lower education attainment, although working in childhood appears to lead to higher earnings (Beegle et al. 2004).
This evidence is largely based on a small number of surveys with relevant indicators to childhood poverty. These include the Vietnam Living Standard Survey (VLSS) 1993-1998; the bi-annual Vietnam Household Living Standard Survey (VHLSS) 2002-2004-2006; the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) 1997-2002; the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 1995-2000-2005; the UNICEF baseline survey on the situation of children and women in ten targeted areas; and finally the Young Lives longitudinal panel data survey which has been tracking 3,000 children since 2000. Of all these surveys, only the VLSS and the VHLSS are panel data surveys and only the Young Lives survey is longitudinal. The rest are all cross-sectional data.
Compared to the voluminous studies on poverty in Vietnam, little is known about the extent and causes of childhood poverty and how childhood poverty affects later outcomes. Based on results from the literature review and data analysis, a number of key issues appear under-researched. We highlight the need for more analysis to better understand:
- how poverty in childhood affects children's later outcomes
- how poverty is transferred from one generation to another
- which children are moving out of childhood poverty and why
- how much intrahousehold resources are allocated to children
- how macro-policies can impact childhood poverty and well-being in Vietnam.
The report is organised as follows. Section 2 briefly sketches the context of socio-economic reform in Vietnam. Section 3 summaries some key datasets with respect to sample size, sampling frame and relevance to analysis of childhood poverty. Section 4 talks about methodological issues in measuring childhood poverty while section 5 presents trends over time and across regions. Section 6 surveys existing literature and section 7 concludes by identifying gaps and offering suggestions.