Stereotypes linked to minority poverty in Vietnam

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tue, Jun 02, 2009

HANOI, VIETNAM - Vietnam's ethnic minorities have a poverty rate more than five times that of the majority, and cultural stereotypes are partly to blame, a World Bank report issued Tuesday said.

The study, conducted in 2006, set out to explain why the country's nearly 10 million ethnic minorities remain economically and socially disadvantaged compared with the majority Kinh people.

Minorities remain overwhelmingly poor despite the government's heavy spending on remote parts of the country where many ethnic groups live, and despite its success in reducing poverty elsewhere, the report said.

Based on fieldwork and survey research among some of the country's 54 different ethnic minorities, including the Hmong and the Tay, it found six primary factors, which included stereotyping and cultural barriers.

It said that an obstacle to increasing the voice and self-determination of minorities is "widespread cultural stereotypes" such as the common notion that they are not as smart as others.

"This stereotyping can have negative consequences, particularly on minorities' self-esteem and self-confidence to use their own voice and power," the report said.

In 2006, ethnic Kinh and Chinese households had a poverty rate of only 10 percent but other ethnic groups averaged a 52-percent poverty rate, the report found.

It said government policy in the country of about 86 million has reflected a view that minorities are backward and would develop further if they were "more like Kinh".

Policymakers need a greater understanding of the ethnic groups and should not apply a "one size fits all policy," Le Ngoc Thang, a key member of the research team, said at the report's launch.

Other factors explaining ethnic minority poverty are lower levels of education and mobility, less access to financial services, less productive land and a lower level of involvement with markets, the report said.


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