Women now account for nearly 50% of the labour force in almost all industries and sectors in Vietnam, and also boast great potential for carrying out start-ups, but they are given little attention due to both subjective and objective barriers.
According to data from the Women's Union of Vietnam (WUV), women-owned enterprises in Vietnam are mainly small and micro-sized with limited accessibility to support programmes or policies. To start a business, women have to overcome a series of challenges including a lack of self-confidence, gender prejudice, limited access to resources and markets and a lack of business management skills.
The facts show that women-owned businesses and households have created significant sources of income and material wealth for the country, contributing to creating jobs for millions of workers, while effectively performing their obligations to the State and responsibility to society and the community.
According to the World Bank, 71% of women working in Vietnam are self-employed and agriculture and services are the two sectors that use the highest number of female labourers. In recent decades, feminisation in agriculture has become more prominent, particularly in the north and women undertake most of the work in many agricultural value chains. Thus, if barriers facing women when starting a business are not removed, potential opportunities for economic development will be missed.
The national strategy on gender equality in the 2011-2020 period has set the targets that the ratio of women-owned businesses will rise from the current 25% to 35% and the ratio of rural workers under 45 years old that are provided with vocational and technical training will reach 50%. In addition, 100% of women in poor, rural, and ethnic minority areas, who have demand for loans to start a business, will be given preferential loans from employment programmes, poverty reduction funds and other official credit sources.
The WUV has also set the target of having 35% of women-owned enterprises by 2020. However, in order to achieve these goals, more specific support policies are needed including financial and non-financial support policies. Non-financial sources include the internal capacity and competitiveness to support women to develop and effectively manage their businesses without depending on external support.
The WUV stated that, it requires the joint efforts of the local political system and WUV members at all levels to help realise the innovative ideals of women to facilitate their start-ups. It is also advisable to enhance the competitiveness of newly established enterprises while developing link activities and trade promotion networks.
In Vietnam, co-operative development is an appropriate form of production to support small-scale household business to compete in the market economy in accordance with the collective economic development direction of the Party and State. The promulgation of policies and mechanisms to support women start-ups and develop enterprises is an urgent need in the near future.
On the other hand, activities in support of women start-ups and businesses must be carried out on different scales and levels which are suitable for specific types of production and business operations. Sustainable business development requires close links between three types of economies including household economy, cooperative economy and corporate economy. Solutions in support of women start-ups must be implemented synchronously in order to promote the general development of the household, cooperative and corporate economies through the participation in the value chains.
The WUV’s project in support of women start-sup in the 2017-2025 period, which was approved by the Government, will encourage women to be confident in starting business in the form of household or cooperative economies and companies or through the application of scientific and technological advances to create products and services of high value. Creativity and connectivity are considered the most important factors for women start-ups, which is also a way for enterprises to escape from scattered and unplanned production and business. Furthermore, the learning from experience and successful models will be the key to women achieving success.
Ministries and sectors need to combine their support activities with related projects and programmes to assist women in starting a business. In addition, female entrepreneurs need to be proactive and active to learn and innovate, while accepting changes to create products and services that meet the increasingly demanding requirements of the domestic and international markets, as well as ensuring environmental protection and public health.