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Speech by Ms. Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative at the launch of National Humans Development Report and Global Human Development Report

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Date: 5th February 2016
Event: Launch of National Humans Development Report and Global Human Development Report
Venue: Conference Hall, VASS Building, 1 Lieu Giai St., Ha Noi

Professor. Dr. Nguyễn Xuân Thắng, President of VASS and Co-chair;
Ambassadors and representatives of diplomatic missions and development partners;
Representatives from government ministries and agencies, and members of the National Assembly,
Members of civil society, experts and researchers.

I am pleased to welcome you all to this double launch - of the Viet Nam National Human Development Report 2015-16, entitled “Growth that works for all” - and the Global Human Development Report 2015 entitled “Work for Human Development”.  We are purposefully launching the two reports together as both examine the connections between economic life and human development and share many similar themes. Specifically how employment, worker productivity, livelihoods, and access to quality public services, impact on national development outcomes.

Both reports urge that a greater emphasis is placed on social and economic inclusion.  This is also particularly important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which requires an integrated approach to social and economic development and environmental sustainability, with the ambitious objective to leave no one behind.   
I am sure that many of you know that the human development approach, has been championed by UNDP for some 25 years now, and a series of global Human Development Reports published since 1990, have contributed to development approaches from a people-centered perspective.  Such that they expand people’s choices and their abilities – to be able to live a long healthy life, have access to schooling, and a decent livelihood, and to be able to their full potentials.

Alongside annual global reports, UNDP Country Offices have been working with national researchers, to produce national human development reports on country specific issues.  Both global and national reports employ a standard statistical tool kit – notably the Human Development Index – to track performance.

The national human development report we are launching today - examines how inclusive growth policies can help Viet Nam to reach new heights.  An inclusive growth approach is one which maximizes output by providing opportunities for all, and particularly those on lower incomes.
This topic is extremely relevant for Viet Nam. It responds to concerns about slower economic growth in recent years and that the once powerful Doi Moi reforms are running out of steam from a human development perspective.  Economic and social policies have also come under scrutiny due to the emergence of serious disparities, especially between the majority and ethnic minorities. Moreover, while income poverty has fallen in Viet Nam, vulnerability to shocks for a large proportion of the population – for example the 64% of the workforce in the informal sector – has increased. As the economy becomes more globally integrated, their vulnerabilities are likely to grow.

The case put in the national report is simple – countries develop fastest and in a balanced way - when the economy makes use of all the available resources – especially human labour. The report examines three key policy areas that mark out an inclusive growth approach. First, with regard to productive employment, it finds that Viet Nam has lagged behind its peers and is in danger of becoming stuck in an “assembly trap” rather than progressing to high value production. Second, the report finds inadequacies both in terms of efficiency and equity in education and health care. While Viet Nam met the MDG targets in schooling and is spending well over 7% of GDP on education, participation in pre-primary and post-secondary education is very limited and access is highly skewed to upper income groups.  Spending on health is also high but here too, outcomes are inadequate. Third, the report finds that Viet Nam’s social protection system is imbalanced and ineffective. While good progress has been made in building a contributory social insurance system, this serves those who can afford to participate and workers within the formal sector. Consequently, only 21% of the work force benefits from social insurance. And equally, social assistance covers only the 10 to 15% of the population who are either poor or within the most vulnerable groups, such as people over 80 years of age etc. As a result, a large population who are not characterized as poor are missing from any system of protection, and yet lack spare income to insure and invest in their - and their children’s - capacities to move up the ladder.

The researchers provide practical and bold recommendations. These range from a new industrial policy to encourage investment and technology transfer, and re-skilling of the workforce, to re-appraisal of socialization reforms in education and health, and expansion of social assistance. A theme throughout is the need to focus both on the poor, but also the vulnerable lower middle income group - whose incomes are not substantially above the poverty line, who typically work in informal jobs, are urban migrants or small scale farmers. Their opportunities for advancement and protections are limited. They are also underutilized, their inclusion and productivity is vital to Viet Nam’s development success.

The global human development report on the world of work echoes and complements Viet Nam’s human development report. It expands our understanding of work beyond the labor market and asserts that all work – paid and unpaid - is central to human progress and dignity.  Like the Viet Nam national report, the report shows that enhanced worker opportunities and full employment are vital. The global researchers emphasize the value of unpaid labour - particularly work carried out by women in caring for their families and others.  Globally, out of every 4 hours of unpaid work, women undertake 3 of them - without the efforts of women, societies and economies would cease to function. Women in paid work also suffer - and are paid, on average, around a quarter less than men and are likelier to be employed in insecure jobs.

The report highlights opportunities, but also the dangers, of globalization and the digital revolution. While having the potential to transform livelihoods, these trends also threaten a new divide between the highly skilled and well-paid, and others locked in dead-end jobs with low wages.  Again echoing the findings for Viet Nam, the global report recommends governments seek a new social contract between employers and workers, based on decent jobs and fit for purpose social protection.

The global report also makes clear the importance of rights-based work policies for securing equitable and sustainable development for future generations. And therefore, investing in greener growth and meeting the SDGs offers new job opportunities for harnessing untapped potential.

Drawing the reports together, for Viet Nam, the recommendations made are useful and urgent.  In today’s interconnected world, many of the development challenges faced are rooted in the relationship and links between economics and people’s well-being.  And these links are fundamentally shaped by the nature of the labour market - how inclusive and equitable work is, and specifically the extent to which the poor and vulnerable are protected and helped to access opportunities.

Before closing, I must acknowledge the close partnership and huge contribution of the Viet Nam Academy of Social Sciences under the leadership of Professor Nguyen Xuan Thang, VASS President.  UNDP is proud of this partnership in producing the national human development report at such a crucial time when the country and its leaders, are defining a new SEDP and policy directions.

I end by reiterating the key finding of the national human development report: Viet Nam’s renewed development success rests on it building an inclusive and equitable economy - and that the route to this lies in full employment based on decent jobs, and opportunity and security for all.

Xin Cam On.