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Speech of Ms. Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative at the Dissemination Conference of the Results of the 2019 Population and Housing Census

19 December 2019

H.E. Mr. Vuong Dinh Hue, Member of the Politburo, Deputy Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, Chairman of the Central Steering Committee for the 2019 Population and Housing Census,
Honorable Mr. Nguyen Chi Dung, Minister of Planning and Investment, Permanent Vice-Chairman of the Central Steering Committee for the 2009 Population and Housing Census,
Mr. Nguyen Bich Lam, Director General, General Statistics Office (GSO), Vice Chairman of the Central Steering Committee on 2019 Population and Housing Census Steering Committee,

Members of the Central Census Steering Committee,

Representatives of the Central Committee for Popularization and Education (CCPE), National Assembly, Office of the Central Party Committee, Office of the President, Office of the Government,  

Representatives of the Ministry of Planning and Investment, line Ministries,

Representatives of the Provincial/City Steering Committees on 2019 Population and Housing Census,

Media, Development Partners, and UN colleagues,  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here today at this landmark conference organized by the Central Census Steering Committee to disseminate the results of the 2019 Population and Housing Census. This is an extremely important event, given the high values of the Census data for the nation – which is to develop and monitor policies, plans, programmes, and budgets at both central and local levels – and for the international community more broadly – to understand Viet Nam’s progress and areas needed for international support, including the realization of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.  Census is a colossal undertaking of national statistics that happens only once in every ten years; thus today the whole country is in suspense to hearing what the Census data can tell. In just a week, we will have the Viet Nam Population Day (26 December), and the 2019 Census is one of the greatest achievements to celebrate that commemoration. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you all for the success of the 2019 Census.  

I arrived in Viet Nam with an honor assignment as UNFPA Representative for Viet Nam three months ago, when Viet Nam just disseminated the 2019 Census preliminary results. I have learnt of the GSO’s bold initiative to apply Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in all the census phases, especially the use of electronic devices for data enumeration that has helped improve substantially the quality and transparency of data collected, shorten the time for data processing, minimize human errors, and disseminate census results early.  UNFPA is impressed with the remarkable progress achieved by Viet Nam in this area, and we are very happy to have been part of this data revolution.

Indeed, the success of the Census is also counted on the commitment and efforts of the entire political system, including considerable resources mobilized, the tireless efforts of the Census Steering Committees at all levels, of nearly 147 thousands of enumerators, team leaders and supervisors, but most importantly, on the active participation of the Vietnamese people themselves. The success of the 2019 Census provides a further track record of the Government’s impressive capacity to coordinate and conduct the Population and Housing Census as well as other large-scale population-based surveys.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we have seen the Census Results from the presentation of Mr. Nguyen Bich Lam, the Census provides key indicators of population and housing, allowing us to see not only disaggregated data of population size and structure, but also other areas of population dynamics such as fertility, mortality, migration, education, employment, disability, and housing conditions. The Census results firmly confirm that Viet Nam’s fertility rate has been steadily and slightly under the replacement level at 2.09 children per woman at present. This indeed assures the current and ongoing consideration for recasting by the Government of Viet Nam on population work, from population and family planning in the past, to population and development for 2030 SDGs agenda.

The Census results show that Viet Nam is still in the period of demographic transition, providing a “demographic window of opportunity” when the number of working-age population doubles the number of those of dependent ages. This presents a great opportunity for socio-economic advancement if appropriate policies are in place for human development, especially for young people, decent job creation, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender equality. At the same time, we do need to underline that demographic transition, particularly fertility decline means that Viet Nam’s population is aging at a pace never seen before, with aging index growing from 35.9% in 2009 to 48.8% in 2019. Therefore, while taking advantage of the demographic bonus, the country should also be ready to address the challenges of population ageing. I would like to stress further that having a large proportion of older people is not all negative, but it is an opportunity. The rise of life expectancy at birth from 75.6 to 76.3 for female and from 70.2 to 71 for male during last 10 years has demonstrated achievements of our health and social development programmes. Older people, especially the younger old, continue to be precious, resourceful, and experienced human resources continuing to contribute to the country’s economic and social growth. Equally important, older people are the cultural asset that necessarily links up the past, the present and the future of the country. Ageing society can also mean the opportunity for the development of an industry to meet the needs of the elderly, including the provision of care for older persons in the health sector and beyond. In the context of Viet Nam’s accelerating Industrial Revolution 4.0, we have ample opportunities for everybody, young and old to advance, making sure that “no one is left behind”.

The Census results show progress in maternal and child care services in Viet Nam, with the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel is 95.4%.  The maternal mortality ratio in 2019 is 46 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births, which is a decrease by one-third, compared to 2009 (69 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births) indicating that Viet Nam will achieve its goal of reducing maternal mortality earlier than the plan stated in the National Action Plan for Agenda 2030.

However, one challenge that has not improved is the unbalanced sex ratio at birth (SRB). It is estimated at 111.5 boys per 100 girls in 2019, and this is still a lot higher than the level which is naturally and biologically possible, which is at around 105. It is strongly suspected that this demographic imbalance is a result of pre-natal sex selection largely based on son preference, which is deeply rooted in the traditional culture in many countries in the world including Viet Nam. Gender-based sex selection should be stopped from the perspectives of gender equality, and also the unbalanced sex ratio can soon have implications for the population’s marital status and a further fertility decline. As such, more intensified nation-wide efforts have to be called for, for the implementation of existing legal and policy frameworks to prevent gender-based sex selection and in promotion for gender equality at large.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

UNFPA has a long history of successful cooperation with the GSO in undertaking population and housing censuses, starting with the very first Census in 1979.  Within the current framework of UNFPA Country Programme for the period 2017-2021, UNFPA commits to supporting the GSO in not only carrying out this Census successfully, but also in producing and disseminating Census results, as well as in ensuring good use of quality Census data for the country’s policy and decision-making, so that we can make a difference for better lives of all the people.  Today, I am truly delighted to announce that the photo voice exhibition titled "Stories behind the data" is launched as well, in connection with the 2019 census result dissemination. We would like to thank all of the photographers for the beautiful photos and stories they collected from nine cities and provinces in Viet Nam with regard to the Census. We would also like to thank the Vietnamese families who participated in this photo voice project and shared their inspiring stories that really touched our hearts. It is meant to enhance the understanding of key issues behind the Census data, make a real contribution to improving the lives of Vietnamese people, and ensure that no one is left behind in Viet Nam’s development process.

I wish you all every success in the dissemination of the Census results today and beyond, towards a Viet Nam where every pregnancy is wanted, every child birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

Xim Cam On.