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Vietnam comes second within ASEAN on tackling inequality before COVID-19

07:45 | 10/10/2020

Vietnam has come second within ASEAN, and ranking 77 out of 158 countries on the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRII) index this year.

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vietnam comes second within asean on tackling inequality before covid 19
Vietnam has done well on the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index (CRII). Photo: VNA

The index, released on October 8 by Oxfam International and the Development Finance International, ranks 158 governments on their policies on public services, tax and workers’ rights, three areas pivotal to reducing inequality and weathering the COVID-19 storm.

The analysis reveals that very low spending on public healthcare, weak social safety nets and poor labour rights meant the majority of the world’s countries were woefully ill-equipped to deal with COVID-19.

The CRII shows that only 26 out of 158 countries were spending the recommended 15 percent of their budgets on health prior to the pandemic, and in 103 countries at least one in three workers lacked basic labour rights and protections, like sick pay, when the virus struck.

The index highlights that no country in the world was doing enough to tackle inequality prior to the pandemic and while COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for some, many countries are still failing to act. This is helping to fuel the crisis and has increased the vulnerability of people living in poverty, especially women.

Women, who generally earn less, save less and hold insecure jobs, have been particularly hard hit by the lockdowns introduced in response to the pandemic while unpaid care work and gender-based violence have increased dramatically. Nearly half of the world’s countries do not have adequate legislation on sexual assault and 10 countries have no laws on equal pay or gender discrimination.

vietnam comes second within asean on tackling inequality before covid 19
A woman gets financial support from the Government's financial relief package aimed to help vulnerable people overcome difficulties caused by COVID-19. Photo: VNA

Vietnam is to be congratulated on its recent progress in several areas of policy to fight inequality. Compared to other countries in ASEAN, Vietnam’s performance is better in terms of health and social protection spending, collecting high levels of tax, and promoting women’s labour rights, according to the report.

Since the 2018 CRI Index, Vietnam has increased its health spending, although it must do even more to reduce health inequalities and the significant amount ordinary people need to pay for the cost of healthcare.

Vietnam’s tax collection is strong, especially compared with other countries in the region, but it could still do more to eliminate tax incentives for corporations. Its score on labour rights remains low, but if it implements the recent welcome agreement to allow workers to form their own independent labour unions, this score will improve in future CRI Indexes. Vietnam’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been among the best in the world.

It moved rapidly with containment; targeted testing, tracking and quarantine; and public communications. It also included measures to limit increases in poverty and inequality, a plan on providing financial relief of USD 2.7 billion for 20 million vulnerable people, and paying workers whose contracts were suspended a monthly allowance of VND 1.8 million (USD 77,82).

The government is also considering making reducing inequality a core part of its upcoming ten-year plan, which would be a very important and positive step.

Nevertheless, the findings also show the need to reinforce Vietnamese people-centred policies to fight inequality in the following ways: increasing the CIT rate and reducing corporate tax incentives; increasing spending for public services including education, health, and social protection; and increasing its minimum wage to a living wage, making progress towards universal social protection coverage and access, especially workers in informal and vulnerable employment.

It is also suggested to move ahead with its adoption of laws allowing independent workers’ representative organisations in accordance with International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions and creating an enabling institutional environment for fairer public policy, with citizens and civil society empowered to participate and provide feedback; and monitor and reduce inequality as part of poverty reduction./.

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