Vietnam’s Two-Child Policy: Bad for Women, Bad for the Country

Ramona Vijeyarasa

A newly-enforced policy of population control is directly at odds with Vietnam's concerns about the country's growing gender imbalance.

controlled transition towards a market economy, known as Doi Moi,
or Renovation
started in 1986. As part of this economic reform, the Government introduced
its family planning program, known as the "one-to-two
child policy"

as set out in 1986
Law on Marriage and Family
Although until recently, many have suggested the two-child policy has
not been rigorously
the reality
is that, due to this law or to economic and social change, the country’s
total fertility rate declined drastically from 3.8 children per woman
in 1989 to 2.3 in 1999 and stood at 2.09 children per woman in 2007. Last month, the Government of Vietnam, fearing that a population
boom would jeopardize the country’s development, has stated
its firm intention to limit couples to two children.

Under the current implementation of the law, government employees who
have a third child are denied access to pay rises and promotions. Under
the new draft ordinance, the Ministry of Health’s General Department
of Population and Family Planning is proposing to reprimand Communist
Party members and civil servants, as opposed to parents, for their failure
to enforce the law. The draft does not explain what punishment
will be implemented. Ethnic
, however,
will be exempt, with couples from ethnic minority groups with populations
of less than 10,000 people allowed to have more than two children per
family, according to the deputy director of the General Office for Population
and Family Planning Duong Quoc Trong. Couples with two children will
also be allowed to have a third if one child is disabled

A policy of
population control seems directly at odds with the government’s concerns
about the country’s growing gender imbalance. Vietnam has far more males  than females. The international ratio at birth is about 105 boys
for every 100 girls, but in Vietnam, echoing trends in China and India,
the imbalance has grown to 110 boys for every 100
girls and is as high as 120 boys in some provinces. Vietnam has one
of the highest
abortion rates

in Asia, if not one of the highest in the world. Abortion in Vietnam has been legal and available since
the early 1960s, for pregnancies up to 12 weeks, and sometimes later,
with the average woman having two
abortions in her lifetime
. Research indicates that couples resort to abortion
to achieve their desired family composition. 

, Canadian
research chair and director of the Population Studies Centre at the
University of Western Ontario, highlights the detrimental impact of
sex-selective practices on women in the long-term. Belanger notes the
current trends of men in China, South Korea and Taiwan to seek wives
through the "bride trade." Other researchers similarly report that a scarcity of
women will be matched with increased pressure to marry, higher risks
of gender-based violence, rising demands for sex work and the development
of trafficking networks. Even the Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Ba Thuy, has warned that the sex ratio would
be 125 boys per 100 girls by 2020, with more than 4 million Vietnamese
unable to find
wives by 2030 unless this gender balance is address. 

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in Vietnam defend the need to vigorously enforce the two-child policy
by arguing the need to avoid placing a strain on public services in
the country of 86 million people. However, the UNFPA recently responded that the Government
of Vietnam should reconsider this decision as it will be difficult to
increase the population in a few decades. According to UNFPA, Vietnam
currently has a population growth rate of 1.3%, which has remained largely
unchanged for the past few years. Vietnam will therefore face an aging
population and the consequences of an insufficient labor force if it
enforces the policy.  

Removal of
the two-child policy to allow for a younger, working-age population
is not only essential to the Vietnamese Government’s development plans.
As a signatory of the CEDAW Convention, the Government’s policy denies
women their right to decide the number and spacing of their children.
The CEDAW Committee has in fact explicitly stated that the decision
whether or not to have a child should not be limited by Government. Sexuality Policy
has also
criticized the Government’s focus on women’s bodies and sexualities
as vehicles for its project of nation building. Undeniably, the Government’s
renewed vigor towards enforcing the two-child policy in the name of
economic of development not only violates the rights of couples to choose
but may undermine the very economic development it aims to achieve. 

Topics and Tags:

Family Planning, Vietnam

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