Vietnam has one of the world’s highest rates of people living with disability. Historically, the country has experienced reduced access to education and employment, particularly in rural areas. However, the government has worked closely with UNICEF, USAID and the International Labour Organisation to promote a more inclusive society, aligning it with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It has implemented initiatives and adopted legislation to raise awareness and increase standards in the training, employment, allowances, education, and healthcare of people living with disabilities. Overall, access is less than ideal, but steadily improving.
Most international flights arrive at Tan Son Nhat, Ho Chi Minh City’s airport, while Hanoi is accessed via Noi Bai. Both have relatively modern facilities but can become congested. Assistance for those with limited mobility is variable and best organised in advance (often with one's airline). Onward travel is via bus or taxi, including accessible airport transfer cars and minibuses which are cheap and always available.
Most taxis can accommodate a folding wheelchair in the boot, but very few have ramps or room for a fixed or powered mobility aid. Mai Linh and Vinasun are popular services that are safer and more reliable than many independent street cabs, offering pre-booking services for fully accessible cars. Regional alternatives to Uber are Grab, Be and Go Viet, helping passengers avoid hidden costs or out-of-the-way journeys.
Very few buses are accessible to wheelchair users, and boarding and alighting on busy streets and uneven pavements can be a challenge. So, for most people with any form of impairment (including sight or hearing), they are not a viable option.
Hanoi has a relatively efficient overground and underground rapid transit service, while Ho Chi Minh’s metro is under construction and nearing completion after much delay. It’s a major programme set to ease the congestion of a city that’s home to well over 9 million people. Both networks were designed to international standards for accessibility.
International car rental firms and local franchises are available, but few foreign visitors choose to drive themselves. Car and driver services are more practical and safer than testing one's driving skills on Vietnam’s congested streets. During much of the day, the average speed of traffic in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi is slow, so well-planned taxi or train travel tends to be a better option.
LGBTQ+ in Vietnam
Homosexuality is legal and generally accepted in Vietnam, especially in the expat communities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Some people from more traditional cultures and philosophies, however, may discriminate. Same-sex marriages are not legally recognised, while gender reassignment is permitted only in certain congenital medical circumstances.
Viet Pride marches take place in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and gay characters appear in mainstream television and films, but Vietnam remains socially conservative. While displays of affection might draw disapproving glares, the same holds true for straight couples.
Gender equality in Vietnam
Vietnamese women have less access to resources, education, skills development and employment opportunities than men. This is because society assigns both a lower status and most of the unpaid care work to Vietnamese women and expects them to work in subsistence agriculture and the market economy. Unemployment is low and 47 percent of the country’s workforce is female. 21 percent of small and medium enterprises are owned by women, but gender inequality remains high in larger organisations.
Women in leadership in Vietnam
For Vietnamese women, success means more than a career. Female leaders need to be champions of the double burden of their roles at home and work. While society celebrates female leaders, they are subject to many traditional norms set by the remnants of Confucianism and contemporary socialist standards. As the economy shifts from agriculture to manufacturing and technology, more female leaders are visible. They are also well represented on People’s Committees in local, regional and national government.
Mental health in Vietnam
In Vietnam, mental and physical health are seen as interconnected and viewed as a state of balance. Traditionally, mental health issues have been seen as shameful or a burden. The mental healthcare system is improving through policy and legislation, and since the pandemic, many multilingual national and international resources have become available online to support those suffering from stress, depression and anxiety.
Unconscious bias in Vietnam
Unconscious bias refers to the prejudices absorbed when living in unequal societies. Preconceptions around gender, age and ethnicity inhibit effective hiring, limit development and lower staff morale. Some international organisations in Vietnam use training to promote tolerance and understanding, but ingrained views on men being leaders with women in support roles persist.
Diversification of the workforce in Vietnam
Vietnam is statistically the most culturally diverse country in Southeast Asia. Within the population of around 102 million, the government recognises 54 ethnic groups, the vast majority (85 percent) being Kinh (Viet). The 15 percent of the population that belongs to minority ethnic groups is mainly concentrated in the mountainous and rural regions. Vietnam is officially an atheist state with only 14 percent of the population following a religion. The constitution allows for religious freedom and states that all religions are equal before the law. Those having a religion tend to correlate closely with ethnic minority groups.
Safety in Vietnam
Vietnam is a generally safe place to live, travel and work. Most incidents are petty crimes such as pickpocketing, centred on tourist attractions and markets. Traffic (particularly motorbikes) poses the largest threat to safety and well-being.
Women’s safety in Vietnam
Vietnam is listed by many as one of the safest destinations for solo female travellers and expat workers. While most women dress moderately, there are no rules on clothing except for sacred sites such as pagodas and churches. Harassment and sexual violence are low and uncommon.
Calendar initiatives in Vietnam
4 February – World Cancer Day
March – TB Awareness Month
8 March – International Women’s Day
19 May – Global Accessibility Awareness Day
June – Pride Month
10 September – World Suicide Prevention Day
October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month
10 October –World Mental Health Day
14 November – World Diabetes Day
1 December – World AIDS Day
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