Society and Development
Vietnam has a population of around 96 million. In the late 20th century, the economy shifted from purely agrarian to more industrialized. Around 35 percent of the population lives in cities, which is where most of the country’s factories are concentrated.
What to Expect
· Free Wi-Fi is extremely common in Vietnam. You can find it in cafes, on buses, in major parks, and almost anywhere on the street!
· Roads are well maintained and all of the major highways provide a smooth ride. Traffic is intense in the major cities, and Vietnamese drivers don’t have to follow as many safety regulations as drivers do in the U.S. and Europe.
· Hotels and western-style shops have air conditioning, but restaurants frequently do not. Restaurants do typically have electric fans and open windows.
Development since the War
Vietnam has come a long way since the end of the war. Some of its more impressive accomplishments include a drastic reduction in poverty. Vietnam’s economy is becoming more industrialized, and factories churn out garments, shoes, and machine parts by the truckload. Agriculture makes up about 17 percent of the GDP, and some of the top exports are rice and coffee. For now, tourism makes up just 6 percent of the GDP.
There are still many authoritarian restrictions on freedom of speech and expression. For instance, Vietnamese people cannot appear in photographs with the South Vietnamese flag without fear of criminal prosecution.
Vietnam is currently classified as a developing country, and it has made great strides toward becoming a fully developed nation. The life expectancy is currently 73 years, and the average family has 1.8 children. Literacy rates are over 94 percent. The infant mortality rate is 86th in the world.
Drinking Water and Pollution
Vietnam tap water is not safe to drink, and the entire country relies on bottled water. Naturally this contributes to the pollution issues, and littering is a persistent issue in Vietnam. Although trash collection and public awareness have improved in the past decade, trash still mars heavily trafficked tourist attractions and city streets.
Unemployment and Education
Vietnam’s unemployment rate is around 2 percent, although the youth unemployment rate is quite a bit higher, hovering around 7 percent. Many of Vietnam’s young people have begun participating in the gig economy, offering rides on motorbikes or via Uber in order to earn a meager living.
The education system is an important factor in the youth unemployment rate, which does not necessarily prepare young people for the realities of the workforce. Interestingly, young people with more advanced degrees have a harder time finding employment than those who start working right after they graduate high school.
The Vietnamese educational system is currently facing a crisis. School curriculums need to be updatesd, and they’re struggling to supply enough teachers for their burgeoning population. 70 percent of children are enrolled in secondary school, but advanced education opportunities are limited, and only around 20 percent of students who take tests to qualify for a university pass.