A vocational training class for ethnic women (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – “Economic empowerment for women is a strong commitment and one of the priorities of the Vietnamese Government,” Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Ngoc Dung said in a speech at the General Discussion during the 61st Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women on March 13.

Dung, who also chairs the National Committee for the Advancement of Women, said that Vietnam has obtained considerable achievements in this field as reflected in laws and policies. Its legal framework has been improved and is compatible with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, conventions of the International Labor Organisation, and the Beijing Platform for Action about women.

With its own efforts and assistance from development partners and UN organisations, the country has realised the Millennium Development Goal on gender equality.

The proportion of women in the labour market is nearly 73 percent and the rate of female enterprise and farm owners 24.9 percent.  According to a 2016 World Economic Forum report, Vietnam ranked 65 out of 144 countries on the gender gap index, while the female-to-male ratio of labour force participation was 0.92 – nearly reaching the equality level, the minister noted.

Numerous activities have been implemented to support entrepreneurship training and promote access to financial and credit sources, Dung said, adding that “the role and status of Vietnamese women in all aspects of social life have been raised significantly.”

However, he admitted that the country still faces challenges. While female workers mainly work in informal sectors, there exists a gap in employment quality, employment status and income between male and female workers. Most businesses headed by female entrepreneurs are micro small scale with informal activities and gaining low profit.

Women’s ability and potential is still often undervalued. Other challenges include natural disasters, epidemics, labour market, finance, the changes of employment structure due to the 4th Industrial Revolution, low global economic development in recent years and trade protection.

Facing this, the Vietnamese Government plans to support women, especially young women, to access skill training in emerging fields, particularly in science, technology, technical education and mathematics. It will prioritise spending on social security and caring infrastructure to help women reduce family burdens and increase their access to social protection. More investment will also be poured into improving the productivity and income of women in agriculture, he added.

In another speech on behalf of the 10 ASEAN member nations, Minister Dung said: “ASEAN Member Countries have accomplished a great deal in the advancement of women at the national and regional levels.”

However, they also recognise that there are still barriers to be removed to ensure women and men enjoy equal economic opportunities and that the ASEAN Community as a whole enjoys prosperity and sustainable growth.

He said that the bloc will strive to address the constraints in all dimensions. Gender mainstreaming, increasing women’s participation in the labour force, economic, social and political spheres, and ensuring access to education and vocational training are essential for the empowerment of women and securing the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms for women.

The 61st Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women takes place at the UN headquarters in New York, the US, from March 13-24 under the theme “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work”.

As part of the session, Minister Dung also addressed fringe events, including a discussion on enhancing women’s role in agriculture and rural areas in Vietnam, and a workshop on dealing with harmful practices of male preference held by the UN Population Fund.-VNA