The proportion of women-owned businesses has tended to increase over recent years, from about 21% in 2011 to 24% in 2018, according to a survey report by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI).
Son La province’s women join a startup festival held in Sapa City, Lao Cai Province in May 2019. (Photo: Son La Women's Union)
The above data shows the similarities with the official national enterprise data, released by the Business Registration Management Agency under the Ministry of Planning and Investment. Accordingly, by the end of September 2019, there were 285,689 enterprises nationwide owned by women, accounting for 24% of the total number of businesses nationwide.
Currently, Vietnam has the highest percentage of women-led businesses in Southeast Asia. VCCI's report shows that 98.8% of women-owned enterprises are small and medium-sized, with 61.4% of them operating in the service sector.
Promoting economic empowerment for women is one of the key goals under the Australia Supports Economic Reform in Vietnam (Aus4Reform) programme, funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It aims to assist Vietnamese agencies in implementing economic restructuring, reforming the current growth model and improving the business investment environment so as to improve labour productivity and the competitiveness of the economy as well as higher quality towards fast and sustainable development.
Under the framework of the Aus4Reform, the VCCI conducted the research on "Doing Business in Vietnam: Evaluation of Women-Owned Enterprises," assessing business environment in 63 provinces and cities of Vietnam from the perspective of women-owned enterprises.
According to Dau Anh Tuan, Head of the VCCI’s Legal Department, the report offers a comprehensive look into the business environment on women-owned businesses and can be considered as the first report from this unique and prominent perspective, through the exploitation and analysis of survey data on 10,000 private businesses in 63 provinces and cities of Vietnam.
The report showed that most female business owners' capacities are highly educated with 68.6% with university and master's degree in business administration, while the ratio for men is 71.9%. It clearly demonstrates that the gender gap in education has been significantly narrowed and that women are as well qualified as men to assume management positions.
Regarding enterprises' business and production situation, the survey also showed that the ratio of businesses generating profit among women-owned enterprises is 64% and higher than that of 63% in enterprises owned by men.
Previous reports have also pointed to strengths in women-owned businesses, such as persistence in the face of difficulties, greater attention to support policies for employees, and social contributions.
However, while women’s empowerment in economic development has been accelerated, the report also showed that women, who are leaders in small and medium-sized enterprises, are still facing many difficulties, mostly being the pressure in balancing their work and home life.
With the above barriers, the research team proposed recommendations for the concerned authorities to strengthen communication and training orientation to help women have more confidence in themselves, while eliminating prejudices and gender stigma that women might have themselves.
In addition, family members also need to respect women when they choose to follow an ambitious business related career. Men should also be more aware and should take more responsibility in taking care of housework to support women in pursuing successful business careers. Nhan Dan