From agricultural to industrial society. What the stats say about Vietnam

Many statistics are compiled about this country, both locally and around the world. We’ve gone through the data and have put together some of the most interesting.


Agricultural Vietnam


Earlier this year, market research company Cimigo released a report comparing data in 2016 with historical data from 2005. Covering a period where Vietnam’s economy has grown at over 5% a year, it’s an eye-opener.



One key finding is the change of people living in agricultural regions compared to those living in urban Vietnam. All administrative areas of cities are defined as urban except for areas within the city provinces that are demarcated as communes (xa in Vietnamese). These are rural. The same distinction is used in the country’s provinces.


In 2005, just 27%, or 22.1 million people, lived in urban Vietnam. By 2016 this had risen to 34%, a total of 30.9 million people. This is reflected in statistics released by the World Bank. In 1985, agriculture in Vietnam accounted for 37.2% of national GDP. By 2008 this had fallen to 18.5%. Over the same time, industry as a percentage of national GDP had risen from 26.2% to 43.2%.


With an increasing number of people living in the towns and cities, a trend that is set to continue, there is constant pressure to develop new markets. On an agricultural front, Vietnam is the second-largest coffee producer in the world and vies for top spot on the rice production front with Thailand. But what about the urban setting? Dealing with the transformation from agrarian to urban-based society is an ongoing challenge.


An indicator of how this transformation has affected wealth can be seen by the number of high-income urban households in Vietnam. In 2005, 1.61 million households had an income of over US$500 (VND11.4 million) a month. By 2016 this had grown by 111% to 3.41 million.

Truc Bach Lake in Hanoi, 2015. Truc Bach has developed from a small village just outside the Old Quarter into one of the most expensive residential areas in the capital

Consumer Finance


As Vietnam was largely unaffected by the credit crunch in 2008, over the past decade there has been an increased willingness of banks to give consumer loans. This has had an influence on the markets for real estate, motorbikes, cars and electronics.


Here are the stats provided by Cimigo:


2005 — US$1.6 billion in consumer loans. Approximately 3.6% of GDP

2016 — US$16 billion in consumer loans. Approximately 9% of GDP

This is an increase of 1,000%


The breakdown of loans is as follows:

Home purchase and home improvements — 40%

Home appliances / electronics — 30%

Motorbikes / cars — 15%


And here are the figures to show how each market has grown exponentially in the past decade:



6,000 new apartments sold

25,000 new passenger car sales

437,000 new motorbike sales



59,000 new apartments sold. Increase 983%

179,000 new passenger car sales. Increase 716%

3,121,000 new motorbike sales. Increase 714%


The percentage increase in consumer loans roughly correlates to the percentage increase in apartment sales, motorbike sales and car sales. The question as ever with debt is, is it sustainable?


Jumping For Joy?


In Vietnam, the transformation from agrarian to urban society has also meant a change in lifestyle. One factor that recently came to light in a survey conducted by Stanford University was the Vietnamese indifference to physical exercise.


According to the study which focused on more than 700,000 people in over 100 countries who used the same health and fitness monitoring mobile app, on average Vietnamese people walk around 3,600 steps a day, far less than the global average of 5,000. This places the country seventh from bottom in the rankings, with Hong Kong residents on top with an average of 6,880 steps per day.


Such a lack of movement should surely translate into growing levels of obesity. Yet it seems Vietnam fares well on this front. According to an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine in June, together with Bangladesh, Vietnam has the joint lowest adult obesity rate in the world.


With the study defining ‘obese’ as a body mass index of 30 or higher and ‘overweight’ as a BMI (body mass index) from 25 to 29, in Vietnam 8.1 million adults are considered to be overweight — approximately 9% of the population. However, only 1% are considered obese. Around the world, more than 10% of people are obese.


All meaning that sedentary lifestyles, although making Vietnamese people far lazier than their counterparts elsewhere, have yet to affect obesity levels. Considering that excess weight played a role in 4 million deaths in 2015, this is good news.


The real issue in Vietnam, it seems, is the other side effect of the transformation from agricultural to urban society; pollution. In particular, air quality.

Nick Ross

Chief editor and co-founder of Word Vietnam, Nick Ross was born in the humble city of London before moving to the less humble climes of Vietnam. His wanderings have taken him to definitely not enough corners of the globe, but being a constant optimist, he still has hopes.


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