Industrialization in the Vietnamese Society


Vietnam is located within 8° to 24° latitude, and between longitudes 102° and 110°.It is about 127,243 squire miles, that is basically the size of New México State in the US. It has a coastline of about 2,135 miles and is bordered by three countries that are china to the North, Cambodia to the south and Laos towards the central northeast. Economic growth in Vietnam the last 15 years has been largely enabled by adoption of an open market system and the ability of foreigner to purchase their goods. Since the country is being integrated to the global economy it needs to increase the value of its locally produced goods and services. The country has a vision to modernize its economy by the year 2020 this will not be unless all the country’s resources are exploited. This paper seeks to understand the following in reference to Vietnam; the three stages of development; the four characteristics of industrialization; the four requirements for industrial revolution and how the traditional social structures have been affected by industrialization.

The three stages of development

In reference to the universally recognized stages of development Vietnam has not yet reached the third phase, and can be largely seen to be at the second stage. Its vision to be industrialized by the year 2020 is intended to modernize the industries. The first stage is where goods are produced largely by unskilled workers at their home. The goods by these cottage industries are agricultural based, textiles and some mining. The second stage, goods are produced by skilled manpower where there is value addition to the ‘crude’ goods. For example fruits produced and eaten raw would now be used to produce juices and packed. The third stage goods are produced mainly by machine, farms previously cultivated using hand hoes would now be cultivated using tractors.

The Vietnam economy has experienced massive growth over the last 20 years, with an average growth rate of 7.6% per year. Previously, it was one of the least developed countries in the world with a GDP per capita income of 98$, currently it’s about 1,024$.As a low income state it has been through “war, political turmoil, socialist planning, and severe economic mismanagement is usually characterized by a fragile economic structure” (Jamieson 93). Its industries still depend on “heavily on extractive resources, monoculture export, subsistence agriculture, or foreign aid” (Bryant 6). The value of goods is added through small cottage industries, there are still no strong manufacturing firms to support them.

The four characteristics of industrialization

Over the years it has been observed that industrialized countries have four characteristics in common. Developed economies rely heavily on factories where there is mass production of goods using machine supported by a highly skilled manpower. There is also massive rural to urban migration where people move to cities in search of a better standard of living. Raw materials produced from agriculture and mining are used to feed the manufacturing industries and thus become more dominant than extractive industries. The last phase of industrialization is the extraordinary interdependence where the all industries depend on each other, for example agricultural goods are sold to hotels which are visited by tourists hence the two depend on each other.

In Vietnam the manufacturing is powered by foreign direct investment where they have set up small assembly industries that produce goods mainly for export. These industries produce “garment, footwear, foodstuff, electronic devices and components” (Biddington 10).

In recent years the Vietnam government has attempted to industrialize the economy never the less still most of its people depend on agriculture either directly or indirectly. Most of its modern industries owed by multinational companies are based on mining, electronics assembly and manufacture, textiles, garments, and shoe making, these goods are mostly for the export market. Vietnam is an attractive investment destination to foreigners since it has a ready market from the high population. Foreign direct investment is often hindered by government bureaucracy, corruption and market interference by the communist party. The government produces “cigarettes, textiles, alcohol, fertilizer, cement, food, paper, glass, rubber, and some consumer appliances” (Jamieson 93) for the local market. Internationally the country trades in “oil, marine products, rubber, tea, garments, rice, coffee and footwear” (Bryant 5). Its main trading partners are “it’s Asian neighbours and include Japan, China, Australia, Singapore and Taiwan” (Bryant 6).

Currently Vietnam generally provides mainly unskilled manpower though the government is massively investing in education to produced highly skilled manpower required for further development. Vietnam has “a population of about 70 million, the Kinh tribe forms the about 85% of the people while the other 15% consist of Cham, Chinese, Hmong, Khmer, Muong, and Tai” (Bryant 15). Most of the country’s population is “concentrated in rural areas though the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are also densely populated” (Bryant 14). Vietnam has a birth rate of about 1.37%. 34% of its people are under the age of 14 (Bryant 15). The era of extraordinary dependence is slowly catching especially in the cities, peasant farmers ‘export food’ produced from their farms to feed the city dwellers who work in government offices and manufacturing industries.

The four requirements for industrial revolution

Industrial revolution can be simply defined as “the process of change from an agrarian, handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacture” (Beresford 45). There are four premier requirements for attainment of full industrialization they include; Capital, surplus food, surplus labour, resources. Capital is defined as the assets available at initial setup of a business and is used to produce other goods or services with an aim of making a profit (Beresford 45). Money is the most common form of capital though capital can be a skill or raw materials. For industrialization to be realized a country must be able to produce enough food not only to feed its people but also to export. Food surplus allows people to specialize and divide labour; they don’t have to focus on producing food thus take other jobs. At the beginning of an industrial revolution an excess of unskilled labour is vital but as the economy grows skilled labour is paramount. Raw material such as from mining and agriculture are used to fuel the manufacturing industry (Goodkind 3).

Most of the factories in Vietnam depend on capital in form of foreign direct investment from countries such as China, Japan, Singapore as well as western countries. The government also provides capital to improve the countries infrastructure thus encouraging more economic development. Vietnam is on the right path towards food sufficiency; its staple food is rice which it produces surplus such that it exports some of it to Africa. Pho “noodle soup with a clear meat-based broth” (Bryant 12) is often regarded as food for the ordinary poor people. Most of their dishes include salty fish sauce nuoc mam. There is surplus of unskilled labour in Vietnam. Attainment of skilled labour is hindered by the fact that most children still drop out of primary school, university and college education is expensive thus out of reach of most ordinary Vietnamese(Beresford 45).

Effects of Industrialization on the Vietnamese culture and society

The staple food of the country is rice and generally forms part of all meals, which are culturally taken closely by all family members seated in one place surrounding the dishes that are put on a tray or table. An ordinary Vietnamese home can have up to three generation living together; these can be as high as 5 generation in rural areas though in urban places where houses are provided by the government there can be two generation only (Biddington 10). Most families are structured such that the male takes the lead role, often followed by the wife. After marriage the new wife moves to the husbands house which was built for him by the parents, the eldest son is not expected to leave the family home. All household chores such as cooking, cleaning dishes and tending to children are done by the women. Children in this society belong to the father and are not allowed to marry within 5° of this relation. Children are closely taken care off until the age of around 5 years where they start leaning the morals of the society (Jameison 90).They are taught to respect and obey elder members and that at that age they are inferior to them (ton tit rat tu). As they grow older “the virtues of chastity and modesty are expected from girls” (Jamieson 90).

Due to the on going industrialization in the country the above traditional set up is breaking up, in the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh today it is common to find families living individually in apartments or flats. The traditional meals taken at a round table are now rare since the members return home at different times from their various jobs. During the day people in the urban areas feed on quick snacks, rather the well cooked traditional foods (Goodkind 3).As more and more women get educated and get jobs away from homes the house chores that use to be done strictly by women are now shared equally by all members of the family. The once strong morals of the Vietnamese society are slow being corrupted as parents spend less and less time with their children.Vietnamese is the official language, over the years the government has encouraged the people to learn other languages especially English though Russian and French have their place among the highly educated. Termination of a marriage is a taboo traditionally; in major cities divorce rates are higher than in rural Vietnam. Close members of the family were involved in choosing marriage partners this is less common today since parents and children don’t live together in a homestead. Marriage between persons of the same social status was ideal though nowadays girls prefer a husband from a higher social group (Biddington 10).


Vietnam is a third world country that is on the path to industrialization, the major cities of the country exhibit all the characteristics of a modern economy. Rural Vietnam is far from the industrialization and retains the signs of zero level economy.

Works cited

Beresford, Melanie. Vietnam: Politics, Economics, and Society. London: Oxford U.P., 2001. Print.

Biddington, Ralph. Education for All: Literacy in Vietnam, 1975–2001.Manchester: unity, 2003. Print.

Bryant, John. “Communism, Poverty, and Demographic Change in North Vietnam.”Population and Development Review 20.8 (2007):5-15.Print.

Goodkind, Daniel. “Rising Gender Inequality in Vietnam Since Reunification.” Pacific Affairs 25 (2006):3.Print.

Jamieson, Neil. Understanding Vietnam. New York: Carlton publishers. 1993. Print.

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