The statement was made by United Nations Resident Co-ordinator John Hendra at a conference to launch the Asia-Pacific Human Development Report on Gender.

This was backed up by figures provided by the UN on three aspects of gender inequality in Viet Nam: economic power, political voice and legal rights.

In Viet Nam, women make up 46.6 per cent of the workforce but most women work in the informal sector which is not covered by social protection.

Furthermore, as more than half of working women are unpaid family workers, they receive no direct income. Those who are paid earn only 87 per cent of the hourly wage received by men.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)'s first nationwide family survey, Vietnamese women do not have an equal say in decision-making at the household level, and have a lower level of ownership and control over key assets, such as houses, land and large-scale purchases.

Besides, only a few Vietnamese women hold important political positions. Though Viet Nam has the highest rate of female participation in the National Assembly among ASEAN countries, women are not well-represented in senior decision-making in the Party and in the administration: only one minister and five deputy ministers are women.

Vietnamese women are also hindered by their retirement age of 55, while that for men is 60.

This might not only limit women's chances of promotion and access to training, but also discourage employers from hiring women, the review of Vietnamese legal documents by the United Nations Development Fund for Women said.

To make the situation even worse, a recent study by the Supreme People's Court estimated that 21 per cent of couples experience domestic violence. Almost two-thirds of women believe it is acceptable for men to beat their wives, the General Statistics Office 2006 Survey said.

"The silence and stigma that surround violence against women is so strong that many women are afraid to speak out," Hendra said.

He suggested that it was necessary to ensure that all Vietnamese families value girls equally with boys and invest in their capabilities and well-being.

Threat to survival

The 2010 Asia-Pacific Human Development Report (Power, Voice and Rights: a Turning Point for Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific) found that discrimination and neglect were threatening women's very survival in the Asia-Pacific region, where women suffered from some of the world's lowest rates of political representation, employment and property ownership.

It provided recommendations for action across the three areas covered (power, voice and rights) including removing barriers to women's ownership of assets, expanding paid employment, making migration safe and investing in high-quality education and health.

AsiaOne (.sg) - March 11, 2010

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Still more to be done on VN gender equality, says UN official

Vietnam is an acknowledged leader in the region in promoting gender equality but more still needs to be done to bring about gender equality between Vietnamese men and women.

The remark was made by John Hendra, UN Resident Coordinator to Vietnam , at a press briefing in Hanoi on March 9 to announce the 2010 Asia-Pacific Human Development Report.

Hendra confirmed that the Vietnamese government had increasingly made more commitments in gender equality and the advancement of women.

In Vietnam, one in four National Assembly members is a woman – the highest participation rate among ASEAN countries--and the number of women doing business in Vietnam is also high, accounting for 46.6 percent of the country’s labour force, said the report.

However, the report indicated that Vietnamese women are not well-represented in senior decision-making in the Party or the administration. Only one minister and five out of 82 vice-ministers are women, the report went on to say.

And most Vietnamese women are taking unstable jobs in the informal sector with uncertain income and without social protection, the report added.

The report warned that if the sex ratio continues going up in Vietnam , the country will have a surplus male population starting in 2025. The sex ratio at birth in 2008 was 112 to 100, up from 110 to 100 in 2006, said the report.

“In order for women in Vietnam to have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives, equal access to and control over economic resources, and equal access to legal rights and protection, we need to ensure that all Vietnamese families value their girls equally with boys and invest in their capabilities and well-being”, Hendra concluded.

Vietnam News Agency - March 9, 2010