Young Vietnamese are unfit, smoke a lot, and consume loads of alcohol, according a national report on the young released on Wednesday at a conference in Hanoi.
The conference on sharing international experience in making youth development policies was co-hosted by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the United Nations Population Fund in Vietnam (UNFPA).
The UNFPA is a UN organization formed in 1969, whose work involves the improvement of reproductive health, including the creation of national strategies and protocols and providing supplies and services.
The ministry and the UN agency had worked with each other to conduct research and compile the first national report on Vietnamese youths for initial assessments of the impacts of policies on education and training, labor and employment, as well as healthcare for youths, said Vu Dang Minh, general director at the Department of Youth Affairs under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Statements made at the conference agreed upon the progress Vietnam has made in the development of youths, while pointing out the difficulties and challenges for Vietnamese youths in making the most out of their potential.
According to the national report, as of 2014 there were over 25 million Vietnamese citizens from 16 to 30 years of age, accounting for 27.7 percent of the country’s total population.
The current literacy rate among the said group is 96.3 percent, with the figures for male and female youths being 96.7 percent and 95.8 percent respectively.
In terms of physical fitness, the average height of male Vietnamese youths is a mere 164.4cm, 13cm lower than the global average, while that of female youths is 153.4cm, 10cm lower than the world average.
These numbers show young Vietnamese are falling behind their peers in the region when it comes to height, with Japanese and South Korean youths surpassing them by 8cm, Chinese youths by 7cm, and Thai and Singaporean youths by 5-6cm.
Statistics in the report also indicated a poor performance by young Vietnamese in terms of physical attributes, especially stamina and strength, in comparison with the world average.
Meanwhile, injuries and road accidents are two of the most serious health problems youths in Vietnam face, with 30.8/100,000 youths from 20 to 24 years old dying from traffic accidents.
The heights of Vietnamese youths in comparison with global averages, according to statistics recorded from October 2014 to October 2015. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Smoking hard, drinking harder
The report identified the shortcomings of previous surveys on youths’ risk behaviors such as smoking and drinking, saying they were conducted on relatively small samples using interview or self-assessment forms, which means current available statistics may not accurately represent the real status of the issue among Vietnamese youths.
The figures still, however, showed a reasonably high percentage of Vietnamese youths who smoke or drink, in the face of several programs to contain the community’s consumption of alcohol and cigarettes.
This might be accredited to Vietnam’s lack of rehab programs for young cigarette and alcohol addicts.
General director Minh underlined some suggestions offered at the conference, among them a need for a program to improve the physical fitness of youths and models for reducing risk behaviors and consequently lowering smoking and drinking rates.
Low involvement in policymaking
On another note, the portion of youths who have participated in any part of a policymaking process is extremely low (14.4 percent), where young people who receive tertiary education have higher participation than those who work unskilled jobs or live in rural areas.
This is, according to the report, due to various reasons such as policymakers not consulting and coordinating with youths, or young people’s failure to demonstrate their role as owners of the country.
Those who did involve themselves in the making of policies argued that their opinions were not taken seriously enough or actually used in the drafting and implementing of the policies, which discouraged them from joining future policymaking activities.
The report also covered a wide range of other aspects such as education, labor, and employment.
Vietnam is on its way toward amending the Law of Youths with a new approach based on their rights, according to Nguyen Van Tuyet, vice chairman of the National Assembly Committee on Culture, Education, Adolescents, and Children.
With that in mind, the conference was a chance for Vietnam’s policymakers to acquire valuable experiences from other countries to amend the Law of Youths, as well as composing youth-focused policies in the near future.