Social policies for promoting human rights, social justice and international integration in Vietnam
Social policies and human rights are closely interrelated. The proper implementation of social policies constitutes the process of realizing human rights enshrined in Vietnam’s Constitution and law as well as international standards on human rights. At the same time, human rights guaranteed via implementation of social policies will generate a great momentum for promoting social advancement and justice and realizing the national construction goals and aspirations.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tuong Duy Kien

Director of Human Rights Institute, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

Doctor Mai Thi Hien from Ho Quang Phin commune health station, Ha Giang province, instructs a mother to take care of her newborn__Photo: Minh Duc/VNA

Social policies and human rights are closely interrelated. The proper implementation of social policies constitutes the process of realizing human rights enshrined in Vietnam’s Constitution and law as well as international standards on human rights. At the same time, human rights guaranteed via implementation of social policies will generate a great momentum for promoting social advancement and justice and realizing the national construction goals and aspirations[1].

Practical implementation of social policies in promoting human rights, social justice and international integration in Vietnam

In Vietnam, social policies have been studied and considered in narrow and broad scopes. In the narrow scope, social policies are construed as those applicable to groups of social labor, known as “policy beneficiaries”. These include policies for people with meritorious services to the revolution; employment policies; income policies; national poverty reduction policies; social insurance policies; policies in support of people facing extremely difficult circumstances; and policies on assurance of basic social services for the people, and social policy beneficiaries who are members of poor  households, households meeting with extreme difficulties, ethnic minority households, families with meritorious services to the revolution, invalids, diseased soldiers, and families with members suffering orange agent effects, etc. In the broad scope, social policies cover also those applicable to people of different strata, such as policies for workers, farmers, youths, intellectuals, etc.

Achievements in implementation of social policies for guaranteeing human rights

Firstly, the institutions on social policies in human rights guarantee and protection have been constantly improved with the timely formulation of a complete and feasible system of laws and policies on social security. Legislatively, the promulgation of the 2013 Constitution and various codes and laws such as the Civil Code, Labor Code, and the laws concerning social insurance, health insurance, children, people with disabilities, the elderly, education, legal aid, and employment, etc., is of important significance, creating a solid legal basis for concretization of social security rights, heightening the efficiency of human rights guarantee and promoting socio-economic development toward sustainability. In fund establishment activities, focus has been placed on assurance of social security for the people and provision of prompt and efficient support for persons in plights, thereby consistently implementing the Party’s and the State’s policy of “nobody is left behind”. The specific policies on social protection, multi-dimensional poverty reduction, sustainable and inclusive development, support for ethnic minority people, people with disabilities and children in special circumstances, etc., have contributed to raising welfare for social policy beneficiaries, satisfying their basic demands, helping prevent and reduce risks, and bringing about substantive equality for vulnerable groups so as to help them make contributions to national socio-economic development.

Especially in the period of COVID-19 pandemic, the Government issued unprecedented policies to implement social policies.[2] These were important policies that provide timely support for the people to overcome difficulties in the pandemic with welfare packages worth tens of trillions Vietnam dong, helping guarantee the fundamental human rights while heightening the operational capacity of the social security system to efficiently respond to global challenges and providing necessary guarantees for sustainable development with medium- and long-term visions.

Secondly, the social security system has been developed into a social security network, constantly expanding its coverage and increasingly satisfying the demand of eligible beneficiaries. This is clearly reflected through positive developments in the following aspects:

The social insurance system has been designed, organized and operating in a synchronous and uniform manner from central to local levels, serving as the “lifebuoys” for the people facing unexpected risks (ailments, disasters, epidemics, job loss due to occupational accidents, etc.), helping stabilize their income, livelihood and life.

The employment support system has played its role in creating diverse jobs, meeting the demand of majority of the workforce; providing vocational training and improvement of quality of human resources; connecting unemployed persons with enterprises; raising income of workers and guaranteeing the people’s right to employment, thereby contributing to efficient poverty reduction.

The social assistance system has helped the people overcome risks and incidents through providing aid in cash or in kind with state budget funds.

The system of incentive policies for people with meritorious services to the revolution and vulnerable and disadvantaged persons has brought about considerable benefits for these persons, contributing to achievement of social justice nationwide.

The system enabling access to basic social services (education, healthcare, housing, information, clean water, etc.) has seen improvements in quality and service scale, satisfying the essential needs of vast majority of people, especially those in deep-lying, remote, mountainous, island and extreme difficulty-stricken areas.

Thirdly, the life of vast majority of people has been constantly improved in economic, cultural and social aspects, helping promote national socio-economic development and raise Vietnam’s prestige and position on the international arena. These can be seen through continuous improvement of important indexes such as human development index (HDI), gender equality index (GEI), life expectancy, per-capita income, etc. These show Vietnam’s important achievements in the context that these indexes in many countries in the world tend to stop or even reverse due to economic difficulties, political instability and untraditional security challenges. Vietnam is also among the nations that have early accomplished the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals, constituting a prerequisite for the country to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Limitations in implementation of social policies for human rights guarantee

It can be acknowledged that the implementation of social security policies is not as satisfactory as expected. The coverage of social insurance policies remains narrow with a low rate of workers participating in social insurance, particularly non-official economic sectors. Though poverty reduction policies have helped Vietnam record impressive multi-dimensional poverty reduction achievements, the rate of poor households and households living just above the poverty line tends to rise. Meanwhile, the levels of social security support for beneficiaries are not adequate to ensure the minimum living conditions of a segment of population in major cities as well as deep-lying and remote areas.

In addition, the institutionalization of human security issues mentioned in the Documents of the 12th and 13th National Party Congresses as well as the enforcement of implementation solutions still see inadequacies.

Moreover, the subjects enjoying rights are not actively engaged in the policymaking process, especially the formulation of social policies related to human rights. The publicity and transparency in public service provision by a number of state agencies are not fully ensured; that a segment of officials abuse their positions and powers and “conceal” policy information for self-seeking purposes or for “group interest” has more or less hindered the legitimate interests of the people, making it difficult for social security beneficiaries to access the State’s support sources. This also leads to lower effectiveness of social security policies and even affects the people’s confidence in the state apparatus.

Another shortcoming is the quality of human resources. Officers engaged in implementation of social security policies lack professional and managerial skills; some of them cannot efficiently apply digital technology to professional activities and have improper awareness about exercise of human rights. Meanwhile, not a few social security beneficiaries still rely on the State’s support. Furthermore, social security services remain qualitatively poor and neither diverse nor novel enough, which are attributed to lack of physical and technical resources and limitations in scientific and technological level. This causes challenges to enforcement and leads to smaller coverage of social security policies, thus lowering the efficiency in guarantee of human rights in general and social security rights in particular for the people.

One more challenge is that the application of the human rights-based approach in the formulation of social security policies falls below expectations. The country lacks the close coordination between central and local authorities in making socio-economic development policies for guaranteeing the people’s rights.

Solutions to improve social policies for promoting human rights, social justice and international integration in Vietnam

First, it is required to thoroughly understand and properly implement the Party’s guidelines and the State’s policies and laws on the role and importance of social policies in guaranteeing and protecting human rights.

The Party has affirmed that social progress and justice must be achieved without having to wait for economic development reaching a high level, and that social progress and justice will not be “sacrificed” merely for economic growth. The Party’s guidelines state that each economic policy must target social development while each social policy must aim to create motivation for economic development. The encouragement of lawful enrichment should couple with hunger elimination and sustainable poverty reduction and care for people with meritorious services to the revolution and persons in plights. Therefore, public communication should be stepped up for cadres, Party members and the people to be fully aware of the Party’s viewpoints on social policies and implementation of social policies to guarantee and protect human rights. Every individual must have his rights and interests best guaranteed and must be considered the central subject and motivation of social policies. Resolution 42-NQ/TW of 2023 of the 8th plenum of the 13th Party Central Committee, on further renewing and qualitatively improving social policies to meet the requirements of national construction and defense in the new period, sets the following objectives: (i) To establish the system of social policies toward sustainability, advancement and justice, constantly raising the material and spiritual life of the people, contributing to the cause of national construction and defense; (ii) To improve social security policies to be diverse, multi-level, comprehensive, modern, inclusive and sustainable; (iii) To create opportunities for the people, particularly the poor, people in plights and inhabitants in areas facing socio-economic difficulties, to access basic social services, particularly healthcare, education, housing and information services; (iv) To develop the labor market flexibly and efficiently, linking international integration with sustainable employment; and (v) To raise the quality of social development management in connection with guarantee of human rights and civic rights”.[3]

Second, it is a need to apply the human rights-based approach for improving institutions and social policies to promote social advancement and justice and international integration in Vietnam.

Application of the human rights-based approach with the viewpoint of inclusive development in formulation and implementation of social policies is to ensure the uniformity, connectivity and interdependence of human rights so that people can exercise their rights in the development process. It is also affirmed that the people are the subjects of human rights and have the right to enjoy the fruits of the development process they have reaped. With this approach, the 13th National Party Congress has affirmed that the people serve as the center and the subject of the cause of renewal and national construction and defense; and that all guidelines and policies must truly stem from the life, aspirations and legitimate rights and interests of the people, regarding the people’s happiness and prosperity as targets to attain.[4] From this viewpoint, social policies should place the legitimate rights and interests of policy beneficiaries, namely the people, at the center, attaching importance to the people in strategic, deep-lying, remote and ethnic minority areas.

In the time to come, social policies should be modified and supplemented toward efficiency, inclusiveness, comprehensiveness and sustainability. Specifically, the Law on Employment, Law on Health Insurance, Law on Social Insurance and the Ordinance on Preferential Treatment of People with Meritorious Services to the Revolution should be revised to suit the orientations for national development in the new context. At the same time, the Government should promulgate more and properly implement national action programs and plans or every group of social policy beneficiaries.

Third, civil rights and democratic rights of the people should be guaranteed in the cause of socialist-oriented renewal and development. To this end, it is suggested to proceed with the solutions below.

To continue with the human rights-based approach. That means, it is required to ensure that every guideline, policy and law should: (i) stem from and target the right beneficiaries; (ii) clearly define the subjects as obligees and the subjects as obligors; (iii) engage the people in the implementation of guidelines, policies and laws; and (iv) ensure publicity and transparency in the realization of guidelines, policies and laws.

It is a need to respect, guarantee and protect human rights and citizens’ rights and obligations, ensuring that all state powers belong to the people; serving the people should be given the highest priority in designing the state administrative system.

The mechanism to ensure democracy needs to be further institutionalized and enforcement of the Law on Practice of Grassroots Democracy stepped up, while studying the formulation of a draft law on transparency and accountability in performance of official duties.

It is recommended that social security be associated with human security and national security. Important solutions should be applied to guarantee and protect human rights, first of all the rights to healthcare, employment, income, social insurance, and multi-dimensional, inclusive and sustainable poverty reduction.

The assurance of human rights must be combined with inclusive development, which should be applied in production, service, distribution and consumption activities, socio-economic development activities of different economic sectors, and activities of the State.

It is required to apply information technology to the implementation of social policies, materializing the Scheme on building the national database on social security, applying information technology to the settlement of social security policies through 2020 and development orientation toward 2030. Other suggestions are to simplify administrative procedures and raise the effect and efficiency of state management and step up the provision of online public services in the field of social security, contributing to the development of e-Government; and finalize the set of social security indexes so as to raise the efficiency of management, supervision and evaluation of the implementation of social security policies.

It is also a must to persistently implement social policies in association with policies on respect for, protection and promotion of human rights. National plans and programs of action on human rights should be formulated. The formulation and enforcement of socio-economic development policies, programs, plans and strategies must effectively apply the human rights-based approach. At the same time, it is needed to ensure the exercise of human rights and civil rights recognized in the 2013 Constitution and Vietnam’s international commitments on human rights.-

[1] The Vietnamese version of this article is published on

[2] For instance, Government Resolution 68/NQ-CP of July 1, 2021, on a number of policies to support employees and employers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; Government Resolution 116/NQ-CP of September 24, 2021, on policies to provide support for employees and employers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic from the Unemployment Insurance Fund; Government Resolution 128/NQ-CP of October 11, 2021, promulgating provisional regulations on safe and flexible adaptation to and effective control of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[3] van-ban/Van-hoa-Xa-hoi/Nghi-quyet-42-NQ-TW-2023-doi-moi-nang-cao-chat-luong-chinh-sach-xa-hoi-xay-dung-To-quoc-589023-aspx?anchor=muc 2.

[4] Documents of the 13th National Party Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, vol..I, pp.27-28.

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