Vietnam approved a birth rate adjustment program encouraging people to marry by the age of 30 and for women to give birth to their second child by the age of 35, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Tuesday.
Last week, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúcis approved the initiative, which aims to boost Vietnam’s declining fertility rate by ten percent by the year 2030, state-run newspaper Việt Nam News (VNS) reported. The government hopes the measure will also prevent social and economic problems associated with aging populations.
Since the 1980s, Vietnam’s birth rate has decreased steadily, falling from four children per woman in 1986 to 2.09 in 2020. To maintain a steady population, countries need a birth rate of at least 2.1, otherwise, they must resort to immigration to replenish the population according to the SCMP, citing World Bank data. Vietnam has a population of 96 million.
A previous Vietnamese government policy from the 1960s encouraging couples to have “no more than two” children contributed to the falling birth rates in subsequent years the newspaper says, citing U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) data.
Vietnam’s birth rate varies widely between urban centers and rural areas, SCMP reports. In cities, the rate is 1.83 children per woman; in the countryside, the rate increases to 2.26. Vietnam’s largest metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City, has the lowest birth rate in the country at just 1.39.
According to Vietnam’s 2019 Population and Housing Census, women with a university degree have an average of 1.85 children each, whereas women without a formal education have an average of 2.59 children each, suggesting education levels factor into the decision to have children.
Developing countries with stable population growth are typically considered more desirable when courting foreign direct investment (FDI) necessary for sustained economic growth, according to the UNFPA representative in Vietnam, Naomi Kitahara, who explained to SCMP why Vietnam would want to rebalance its population. The UNFPA has supported Vietnam’s birth rate adjustment program since it was proposed last year as a way to bolster its economy.
Vietnam is a developing country and financial experts categorize its economy as a “frontier market,” meaning the country’s economy remains in its initial stages of development, analysts from Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) explained to SCMP. Vietnam’s drive to increase its birth rate would, in turn, produce a viable domestic labor force needed to continue economic growth in the years to come.
Last month, the U.N. Development Program on Vietnam surveyed over 14,000 men and women in all 63 of Vietnam’s provinces and municipalities. The report found that 82 percent of women “agreed they needed to have children to feel fulfilled” along with 72 percent of men who expressed the same sentiment, according to the SCMP.
“Getting married early allows young people to accumulate skills to build a family, become more disciplined and family-oriented, and from there become more responsible with themselves,” a 26-year-old woman in Hanoi told the SCMP when asked about the new government initiative. She has a seven-month-old baby with her husband of one year and would benefit from the birth rate adjustment program.
To incentivize participation, the national government has asked local governments to implement new programs that support young families, VNS reports. Young couples with two children will enjoy reduced income tax. They will receive financial assistance when buying or renting homes and when paying their children’s tuition fees. In addition, the couples “will have priority” when seeking admittance for their children at public schools.
To jumpstart the process, Prime Minister Nguyen has asked local governments to organize “dating clubs” to encourage young people to meet young and marry early VNS reports.