A doctor examines a Khmer elderly in HCM City (Source: ngaynay.vn)
HCM City needs to provide more loans, vocational training, jobs, and health insurance to ethnic minorities to improve their lives, a workshop heard on September 9.

As of last year more than 500,000 ethnic minorities lived in the city, or six percent of its population, with the Hoa, Khmer and Cham accounting for the largest numbers.

Last year the city spent 4.9 billion VND (218,000 USD) on more than 10,700 poor and near-poor ethnic minorities, including disadvantaged students and workers.

The Vietnam Fatherland Front and other organisations found jobs for 1,725 ethnic minority people and built 148 houses besides upgrading 183 houses for them, Dr Nguyen Thi Hoai Huong of the HCM City Institute for Development Studies said.

Policies to waive tuition fees for Cham and Khmer students were introduced in 2013-14 because the latter have low living standards, with most working as casual labourers.

The Cham's academic standards are low and most work as daily-hire employees or sewers or run small businesses, she added.

The Hoa are not deprived, she said, adding that in districts 11, 5, 6, and Tan Phu where most of them live, their businesses account for more than 30 percent of the local economies.

Pham Van Pho, Deputy Chairman of Vietnam Fatherland Front branch in District 6, said businesses owned by the Hoa in his district account for 36 percent of the total of 6,076.

Thanks to policies to boost the economy, businesses, including those owned by the Hoa, have developed, he said.

Hoa students learn their language at school, he added.

Huong said to conserve ethnic minority languages, the city People's Committee's Ethnic Minority Division provides a monthly subsidy to 50 disadvantaged ethnic teachers who teach their languages.

The city offers incentives to small scale industries run by ethnic minorities and traditional crafts, she added.

But despite these efforts, the proportion of poor ethnic people was higher than their ratio of the population, according to statistics the People's Committee released in June: There were 3,850 poor ethnic households, or 8.07 percent of the total poor.

Another 1,480 households were close to the poverty line.-VNA