In Vietnam, to have many children usually guarantees prosperity and a biological pension plan. But the government fears the population is growing too fast. Therefore, it has decided to reintroduce its policy restricting families to two children each.
The Vietnamese authorities are alarmed by a recent spurt in births
With a population of about 85 million, Vietnam has the world’s 14th largest population and the figure is rising. It is also very young, with an estimated 60 percent of inhabitants under the age of 35.
The Vietnamese government is worried about losing control of the situation. Phoung Le Trong, an expert on Vietnam’s social developments at the University of Bonn, says this is a “big problem for the government which plans to develop the economy.”
He says that developing countries need to coordinate their productivity in accordance with the population increase.
Strict policy dates back to 1960s
The authorities in Vietnam’s communist north first launched the “two-child policy” in the 1960s. Couples which had a third child were punished with payment cuts and other disciplinary measures at work. Even party officials had to follow the strict rules.
But because of the Vietnam War, the restrictions were eased and there was a generation of baby-boomers.
The Vietnamese population then began to increase steadily. According to the Vietnamese statistics office, the country’s population has grown annually by 1.4 percent during the past four years.
Vietnam eager to learn from China’s demographic developments
Le Trong says that Vietnam “always keeps an eye on what is going on in China” and has made “some analyses of the developments in China,” which imposes its strict family planning policy with methods such as forced abortions but he thinks that Vietnam is generally “softer” than its neighbour.
He speculates that the Vietnamese government will launch one campaign after another to urge the people to comply with regulations to promote a more rational demographic development.
As soon as one problem is solved, another crops up
The solving of one demographic issue can lead to others. China faces major social problems because of its “one-child policy”. Almost three decades of birth-control policy in China have transformed the population pyramid significantly.
Chinese society is getting older and the share of active workforce in the population is declining, explains Björn Alpermann from the University of Würzburg.
“If there is one lesson to be learned from the Chinese case, instituting a population control-policy necessitates at the same time alternative solutions for old age. I would urge the Vietnamese government to consider the problems of social security, especially old age security.”
Issue of gender imbalance
Another challenge that the Chinese and Vietnamese authorities face is the increasing gender imbalance among the population. As in many other Asian countries, families often prefer to have a son who can carry on the name of the family, as well as for reasons of prestige.
One way families ensure a son is by selective abortion. In some areas of rural Vietnam there are 135 male births for every 100 female births. It would be more natural for there to be 105 male births for every 100 female births.
Vietnam is now in a similar demographic dilemma as China 10 years ago. But experts hope that the Vietnamese will learn from China.