In an exclusive interview with Xinhua on the occasion of the celebration of Vietnamese Women's Day which falls on Oct. 20 annually, Thinh said that Vietnam is among the few countries in the world that have implemented gender equality very early on.

He said that Article 9 of the country's first constitution adopted in 1946 provides that Vietnamese women are equal to men in all aspects. "The idea has been further promoted in the amended constitutions in 1992 and 2013, as well as in various laws on marriage and family, gender equality, prevention of domestic violence, and population control, among others," said Thinh.

Thinh said that the government has launched several gender equality campaigns, such as the five "no's" and three "clean" slogans (no domestic violence, no poverty, no social evils, no malnutrition, and no giving birth to third child; and clean house, clean kitchen and clean street). These campaigns were initiated by the Vietnam Women's Union. The Vietnam General Confederation of Labor has also urged Vietnamese women "to be good both at social and home affairs" as part of the confederation's campaign to promote gender equality. "The role of Vietnamese women has changed remarkably compared to that in the past," said Thinh.

He said that in addition to housework, Vietnamese women nowadays can excel in social affairs, production, business, science and technology, management and leadership. "However, gender discrimination is still prevalent in some rural areas and even in the cities due to age-old traditions. Some Vietnamese couples still prefer to have male babies," said Thinh.

According to Thinh, in early 2014, the sex ratio at birth (SRB) in Vietnam was 114 boys to 100 girls. "It is worth mentioning that in Vietnam, most couples want their first born to be a son with no gender preference for the succeeding children. And this eventually creates imbalance in the number of male and female population in Vietnam," Thinh said.

Thinh cited a survey on population patterns and family planning carried out in April, 2013 which showed that some 83 percent of Vietnamese pregnant women knew the gender of their kids before childbirth.

In order to prevent the worst scenario cited by scientists that around 2.3 to 4.3 million Vietnamese men will not be able to find partners by 2050, Thinh proposed three measures to help stop the current SRB imbalance.

Firstly, he said, Vietnam should strengthen its propaganda on gender equality to make local people understand that boys and girls are equal as cited in various laws on marriage and family, gender equality, and inheritance. The propaganda models should be suitable to the different citizen groups in the country.

Secondly, there should be stricter fines and sanctions over sex selection at birth. Choosing gender before birth or informing pregnant women about sex of their kids is prohibited in Vietnam but these activities are still prevalent.

Thirdly, the country's social welfare should be further improved.In Vietnam, the typical way thinking is that "when one is young, he leans on his father but when the father is old, he will lean on his son."

The country's social welfare system has not been able to cover everyone, especially those working in informal sectors such as in agricultural production and rural areas. If the social welfare system is improved and its coverage expanded to include the informal sector, then Vietnam can gradually wean itself from the traditional view of the welfare system.

Thinh said that the current slogan should be changed to "When you are young, lean on your father but when you get old, lean on your government."

By Nguyen Thi Hang Ngan & Zhang Jianhua - Xinhua Agency - October 20, 2014