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The Vietnamese brain will decide

"Vietnamese have nothing but brains to develop the country in the future." 

This remark by a Minister is very meaningful in the current context when natural resources are getting exhausted, land scarcity is becoming serious, and the population is rising.

With a population ranked 15th in the world and now in the period of golden population (high percentage of working age), Vietnam has huge human resources for development, and, of course, must be used in a different manner: using brains for invention and creation to "catch up" with the 4.0 revolution, instead of using muscles as in the past.

Lots of potential for using gray matter for growth

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)’s latest report, Vietnam ranked 42nd in the global innovation rankings in 2020 and it held the first spot among 29 countries with the same income level. Vietnamese students are always ranked highly in the Program for International Student Assessment survey results of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

That is to say, in many respects, Vietnamese people have a lot of potential and opportunities to use their brain for development.

However, the fact is that in many fields, Vietnamese only use the achievements of science, technology and innovation, but are not yet deeply involved in the innovation process of humanity.

Não bộ của người Việt sẽ quyết định

The greatest source of energy must be stimulated to develop from the brain, not the muscle



For many years, the Vietnamese economy’s competitiveness has been mainly labor intensive, with cheap labor, doing outsourcing ... Vietnamese enterprises have not yet climbed to the high levels of the global value chain.

Vietnam is considered the largest rice exporter in the world, a country that keeps food security for many other countries, but let’s make a comparison: How many tons of rice do Vietnamese farmers have to produce to buy one iphone?

A member of the Prime Minister's advisory team recently told a haunting story. He visited a foreign-invested garment company in his hometown and he saw thousands of people, "all young ones", working there with monthly salary of only VND4.5 million. At the workers' feet, they put water bottles so that when they were thirsty, they could drink water on the spot. They only tasted the water with the tip of their tongues. They dared not drink water because they could not go to the toilet.

Such stories are not new. Although many Vietnamese have risen to master technology and management skills, and are promoted to many high positions in enterprises and organizations, most still work as manual laborers.

Level of innovation is still low

According to the General Statistics Office, the country currently has 42.4 million workers (accounting for 78.1% of the total number of employees) who have not been trained to reach a certain professional or technical level. Meanwhile, the number of workers with informal jobs in the first 9 months of this year was 20.7 million.

These figures show that the majority of workers are unskilled and not trained and this fact clearly shows that the Vietnamese economy is still a labor-intensive one, with poor productivity. A large part of employees have not been trained in industrial labor discipline; employees lack knowledge and skills to work in groups and they also lack the ability to cooperate and bear risks, and hesitate to promote initiative.

These factors cause the labor productivity of Vietnam to be very low compared to other countries in the region. According to the General Statistics Office, based on PPP 2011, the labor productivity of Vietnam in 2018 reached $11,142, only 7.3% of Singapore; 19% of Malaysia; 37% of Thailand; 44.8% of Indonesia and 55.9% of the Philippines.

This shows that the gap continues to increase and the Vietnamese economy will face great challenges in the coming time to be able to catch up with the labor productivity of other countries.

If these gaps were mentioned 3-4 decades ago, perhaps no one would care. But Vietnam has performed Doi Moi (renovation) for nearly 35 years, has integrated in the global economy, and has to compete fairly with other countries in the region. And most fundamentally, Vietnam is now in the phase of its golden population period.

Currently, most businesses, especially private enterprises, have low level of Science and Technology, and innovation. Many businesses are using old, outdated technology, lagging 2-3 generations compared to the world average.

It is estimated that the current increase in labor productivity can only bring in GDP growth per capita from 4.0 to 4.5%, much lower than the level of 7% required to join the group of high middle income countries in 2035, and the group of developed countries in 2045.

Arouse the greatest energy

In 2019, the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked Vietnam's competitiveness 67th out of 141 economies, up 10 grades compared to 2018, significantly shortening the gap with the ASEAN-4 group. In particular, the pillar of information technology accessibility had the highest ranking when it rose from 95th out of 140 economies to 41st out of 141 economies (up 54 spots); the pillar of institutions and innovation increased by six spots. Vietnam is considered by WEF as an exception, with "great progress".

That compliment is the space to look into for development. Digital transformation, or Industry 4.0, will be far-fetched if our thinking cannot catch up with the trend. Therefore, the comment "Vietnamese people have nothing but brains to develop in the future" is worth thinking about for future generations.

For a young country with 70% of the population under 35 years old like Vietnam, the social spirit and community consciousness should be fresh and cheerful, accompanied by aspirations to contribute to a prosperous future. Young people must become the greatest amount of energy that stirs the explosion of desires and the ones who overcome all barriers, dare to do, dare to take responsibility.

That greatest source of energy must be stimulated for development, from the brain, not the muscle.

Tu Giang

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