The quality and availability of data has become an international priority highlighted by the call for a data revolution in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Researchers and policy makers have responded to this call in the Vietnamese context through the Viet Nam Access to Resources Household Survey (VARHS). It provides deep insights into how rural households are doing and how they coped through a major economic transition during 2006-14.
In economic terminology, the VARHS represents a truly unique balanced panel survey of the changing life and work of rural families across the country. In this way, it provides a strong tool for gaining detailed and policy-relevant information about the economy and society of rural Viet Nam. This includes an extensive number of ethnic and poor rural households that have been relatively excluded from traditional growth processes.
Agriculture is key to rural life
The overall living conditions of rural households in Viet Nam have improved in absolute terms from 2006 to 2014. While the changes and improvements in living conditions that have taken place over the period are substantial, on the ground, 2014 bears many similarities to 2006. Agriculture continues to be the dominant occupation with more than 90% of households working in the sector. Rice remains the most important crop, though increasingly commercialized. While poorer households grow more rice than in the past, only half sell in any given year due to self-consumption, which has risen. Aquaculture, other services, construction and other occupations, such as transport and manufacturing, have gained in importance.
Access to resources
VARHS puts focus on four key dimensions of household access to resources and associated institutional developments: land and land markets, labour and migration, technology and innovation, and social capital and political connections. These play a crucial role in production efficiency in agriculture as well as in how households respond to the socioeconomic and institutional environment.
Landlessness remains low in Viet Nam and is positively related with income. Landlessness is not associated with poverty. However, land is fragmented and more needs to be done to promote market-based transactions. Land sales market activity is, as a whole, stagnant, with more activity in the Central Highlands than elsewhere. There is opportunity to promote land markets, especially in light of increases in land rental markets.