Vietnam has the highest urbanization rate in Southeast Asia. Just a decade ago, only 24% of its population lived in cities, with 65% of the labor force employed in rural agriculture. Today, already more than 30 million people live in urban areas, accounting for approximately 34% of Vietnam’s total population. The country is witnessing a rapid proliferation of urban areas, with the number of towns or cities at 755 and rising. Planners estimate that Vietnam’s cities will be home to more than 46 million people by the year 2020. The largest of these cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, are the growth engines of the country, supported by a relatively low urban unemployment rate of 4.6%.
With its newly attained status as a middle income country and its ambitions to achieve higher levels of human development, Vietnam needs to address challenges in basic social service provisions for both rural and urban populations. In particular, Vietnam will have to cope with rural-urban migration, a global megatrend that will continue to trouble city planners for the foreseeable future. Many poor rural Vietnamese will try their luck in the thriving urban centers, perceiving them to be full of job opportunities for both skilled and unskilled workers. Urban planners need to find a way to accommodate this influx of migrants and account for the fact that most of them are ill-equipped to participate in the urban economy.
The latest infographic (see below) from the Asian Trends Monitoring (ATM) team tells a story about Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, and how it fares in its struggle to provide basic services for its people. The numbers and information in the infographic are a combination of secondary data from the World Bank, primary data from the ATM poverty profile survey, as well as information from interviews ATM conducted in the field in September 2012.
This infographic highlights the emerging issues that Hanoi’s poor must contend with. Although Vietnam’s GDP is growing and income levels among the poor are rising, it does not necessarily translate into improved access to services. There are several limitations to the government’s service provision capacity, which leads to things like a strict “poor list” of eligible households.