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Australia championing equality

Released at: 16:28, 24/01/2019

Australia championing equality

Photo: VET Magazine

H.E. Craig Chittick, Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, tells VET about Australia's efforts to bolster gender equality in Vietnam.

What are your thoughts on gender equality in Vietnam?

Vietnam is a leader regarding constitutional provisions for gender equality and it possesses a progressive Gender Equality Law. However, the Labor Code has some provisions that constrain and disadvantage women workers. Australia is proud to support the Government of Vietnam to revisit these provisions in the Labor Code, including stereotypes about women workers’ capabilities and their role in the family. 

By reforming the Labor Code and ensuring its better application, as well as challenging stereotypes that dissuade women from pursuing careers in male-dominated industries such as engineering or from continuing to work once they have children, Vietnam can benefit from the economic growth that is projected to result from greater gender equality in the workforce. 

How does gender equality in the workplace compare to other developing countries, especially in the context of Industry 4.0?

Vietnam ranks 69th in the WEF Global Gender Gap, which is below some ASEAN neighbors (the Philippines ranked 10th in the 2017 list). While women and men here graduate from higher education in equal numbers and enter the labor force in similar numbers, only 22 per cent of senior management positions are occupied by women while 78 per cent are occupied by men. Women care about their own economic empowerment. In fact, in a recent survey a strong majority of urban women work primarily to be economically independent and are just as ambitious as men to achieve promotions to senior roles.

Our message is that Vietnam has the opportunity to put the structures in place that make it the powerhouse that it wants to be in the region. As doors open to increased trade and competitiveness, Vietnam must make the best use of all available assets, including its female workforce. 

What has the Australian Embassy been doing to improve gender equality in Vietnam, especially in business?

In September this year, I launched the Vietnam Business Coalition for Women’s Empowerment (VBCWE), which is supported by the Australian Government through our Investing in Women initiative. Vietnam is an important partner of Australia - this year we celebrate the 45th anniversary of bilateral relations and in March we elevated our relationship to a Strategic Partnership. Private sector growth through women’s economic empowerment is part of Australia’s strategy for the region, so supporting VBCWE responds to these two priorities for Australia.

The private sector has an important role to play in championing workplace practices that enable women and men to have the same opportunities at all levels of the organization, from entry-level to senior management and the Board. The founding members of VBCWE are leading Vietnamese companies who have committed to promoting gender equality not only within their own workforce but also among their peers. VBCWE members will more widely demonstrate to the business sector the benefits of gender equitable workplaces, supported by the evidence of their own experience.

What plans does the Embassy have to continue to support Vietnam in promoting gender equality?

Improving gender equality and women’s empowerment is a key focus for Australia in Vietnam. In November 2016, we launched the “Australia in Vietnam Gender Equality Strategy 2016 to 2020”, which presents Australia’s priority commitments and whole-of-government approach to improving quality of life for women and girls in Vietnam. It also supports the government in implementing its National Gender Equality Strategy 2011-2020. We review our progress annually to critically reflect on and share the successes, challenges and lessons of Australia’s gender equality efforts. Australia recognizes that gender equality can drive more productive businesses and economic growth.

Australia’s long-term interest is in seeing VBCWE grow and attract new members and become self-sustaining. Australia, through the Investing in Women program, will continue to provide funding and technical support to VBCWE, identifying proven strategies that will accelerate gender equality in the modern Vietnamese economy. Australia will also assist the VBCWE Secretariat to support their members to achieve EDGE (Economic Dividends for Gender Equality) certification, and document their experiences to help build up a body of experience on what works most effectively here in Vietnam. We look forward to VBCWE becoming a strong and effective voice for gender equality in the business sector.  

The 2nd Vietnam Corporate Forum, with the theme “Removing barriers for the effectiveness of governance and human resources development”, was held in Ho Chi Minh City on December 12 by Vietnam Economic Times in cooperation with the Vietnam Business Coalition for Women’s Empowerment (VBCWE) and the Australian Embassy in Vietnam’s Investing in Women project.

The forum aimed to identify barriers from gender aspects related to the governance and development of human resources, offering appropriate solutions to help enterprises remove barriers and raise production and business efficiency to achieve growth and sustainable development goals.

With the participation of more than 200 leaders and HR managers of Vietnamese corporations and enterprises, it was a successful continuation of the first Vietnam Corporate Forum in Hanoi in mid-July, with the theme “Sustainable development associated with gender equality values”.

Enterprises at the forum spoke of how they pay due regard to policies to ensure equality and non-discrimination in the workplace and create training and promotion opportunities for both male and female workers. This will spur higher labor productivity, consolidate and nurture a spirit of solidarity, and enhance the creativity and dedication of employees, creating, forming, and developing an effective working environment, building a comprehensive corporate culture, enhancing the value of the brand, and creating greater competition. 

Ms. Ha Thu Thanh, Chairwoman of VBCWE and Deloitte Vietnam, told the forum that the workplace occupies the majority of employees’ time during the day and is like a second home, so creating and ensuring equality and a fair environment for employees regardless of gender or age should be considered a strategic investment. 

Mr. Nguyen The Hao, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Vietnam Economic Times, emphasized that policies and regulations on the implementation of gender equality in the workplace and the enhancement of awareness need to be further promoted. “This is a key area of focus that will determine the growth and development of the economy,” he said.

Within the framework of the forum, three Vietnamese businesses were awarded the first Economic Dividends for Gender Equality (EDGE) Certificates in the country: Southern Airports Services JSC (SASCO), the Ho Chi Minh City Power Corporation (EVN HCMC), and Maritime Bank. 

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