Family undergoing major shifts in Viet Nam, shows first-ever nationwide survey on the family
Ha Noi, 26 June 2008 – Rapid social and economic development is significantly affecting family roles and responsibilities in Viet Nam, bringing new challenges and opportunities, according to the results of the first-ever national representative survey on the family released today in Ha Noi. Based on interviews with adults, adolescents and elderly people in 9,300 households in all 64 provinces, the research indicates that the head of the modern Vietnamese family can now be the wife, husband or both, indicating growing gender equality within the family. However, divorce is on the rise, mainly due to economic pressures, lifestyle differences and adultery, and domestic violence occurs in about 20 per cent of marriages.
The survey was carried out in 2006 by the former Family Department of the Commission for Population, Family and Children (VCPFC), now a part of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MOCST), in collaboration with the General Statistics Office (GSO), the Australia Institute of Family Research, and the Institute for Family and Gender Studies, with support from UNICEF.
The research provides timely evidence for the government to formulate appropriate policies, especially related to the two important recent Laws on Gender Equality and Prevention and Control of Domestic Violence.The data and analysis also provide a baseline against which to monitor ongoing changes in the lives of Vietnamese families.
As part of a special video shown at the launch, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam Jesper Morch noted the importance of the survey. “It is the first time we have this kind of research in Viet Nam, and more than anything, I really want to congratulate the Government of Viet Nam which, once again, has shown vision, leadership and foresight in initiating this study, ” said Mr. Morch.
According to the survey, parents feel they are not spending enough time with their children on a daily basis. One in five fathers and seven per cent of mothers spend no time at all taking care of their children due to the burden of earning a living. The lack of proper care and protection by parents can have negative effects on children’s physical (for very young children), mental and emotional development. “It is not a matter of not wanting to, or ignorance,” said UNICEF’s Morch. “Parents need to work in order for their families to survive..and therefore don’t have time to spend with their children,” he said, adding that the education system and communitities need to help come up with solutions.
Over 80 per cent of adolescents aged 15 to 17 reported that their parents allowed them to make their own decisions on issues directly related to their lives. At the same time, more than half of elderly family members said they faced difficulties including poor health, lack of money for everyday needs and adequate medical care. Most elderly people supported their adult children with either money, advice, or help with childcare and housework.
The research showed that domestic violence is present in about one fifth (1/5) of all marriages. Women and children are the overwhelming majority of victims. This problem remains behind closed doors, however, without adequate intervention by the police or social services because couples fear ‘losing face’, or do not want to ‘wash their dirty linen in public’. The government recently passed the Law on Prevention and Control of Domestic Violence, and implementation of this law will be instrumental in addressing this serious problem in many homes across Viet Nam. “One of the key components of these efforts should be changing societal attitudes to domestic violence, so that it is not simply accepted as a normal or acceptable part of married life, which is too often the case,” said Maniza Zaman, the Deputy Representative of UNICEF in Viet Nam.
One implication of the research is that family policies need to recognise and respond to the needs of the new types of families which are emerging, such as divorced women with children or single parent families. “There is a need for policy makers to better support parents in Vietnam today as they try to juggle the demands of family, work and economic growth,” added Zaman.
The solid data generated by the survey has been disaggregated by region, ethnicity, income, age, and other variables. This data “will be used as a scientific and practical basis for policy making to build wealthy, equitable, progressive and happy families, as baseline for the monitoring and evaluation of the family development and as the premise for further research and studies on families in Viet Nam,” concluded Vice Minister Vinh Ai.
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