Introduction to Vietnam
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam, commonly referred to as Vietnam, is a country in Southeast Asia, that borders the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin and the East Sea, alongside China, Laos and Cambodia. Vietnam is a rapidly developing socialist-oriented market economy. Over the past thirty odd years, Vietnam has made a shift from a centrally planned economy to a socialist-oriented market economy. The economy has experienced rapid growth during the period of transition and today, Vietnam is not only integrating into the world’s economy but leading the way in many respects.

Economic growth and structure

Vietnam’s economy in 2019-2020 marked a record of growth, attracting foreign investment, turnover of import and export goods, increasing manufacturing and major growth in technological development. A prime challenge to the economy in this time was the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and, though Vietnam borders China where the outbreak began, the country managed to suppress the infection with surprising success. The strategy used, however, virtually eliminated the tourism sector from economic inputs and made difficult the flow of investments which require face-to-face meetings. Despite these difficulties, growth remains. The gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 reached 7.02% and is estimated to reach approximately 2.5% in 2020, a drastic reduction due to Covid-19, but still one of the best economic growth rates in the world. The total GDP for Vietnam’s economy in 2019 reached nearly USD329 billion with per capita GDP about USD2,700 and an unemployment rate of only 2.2%.

Vietnam's economy has traditionally been based on large State-owned industries such as textiles, food, furniture, plastics and paper. Despite efforts in recent years to privatize many of the State-owned enterprises, the State remains heavily involved in the economy. Small to medium sized enterprises, however, make up approximately 50% of the economy and 98% of the number of companies in existence. Whether a State-owned enterprise (SOE) or a Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), the three major sectors of Vietnam’s economy are agriculture, industry and services.

In 2020 Vietnam saw major advancements in its international trade regimes. Although signed in 2019, the EVFTA (the free trade agreement between the EU and Vietnam) came into effect in the summer of 2020 and in November, Vietnam joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (“RCEP”) with China and 15 other member states. The RCEP will control trade of nearly a third of the world’s population and economy and will give Vietnam greater access to the Chinese market.

Population size and language

The total population in Vietnam was estimated at 97.4 million people in 2020. Vietnamese is the official language. Vietnamese is a tonal language in which the rise and fall of the voice can change the meaning of the words. In written form, Vietnamese uses the Roman alphabet and accent marks to show tones. There are other languages spoken as well: English, Chinese, Khmer, Cham and other minority languages spoken by tribes inhabiting the mountainous regions. English is the most popular foreign language and widely spoken in some urban areas. Moreover, English study is obligatory in most schools.

Business hours/Time zone

A normal working day in Vietnam starts between 7:00 am and 8:30 am and ends between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm, from Monday to Friday and until noon on Saturday, leaving the afternoon and Sunday off. Lunch is taken very seriously and virtually everything shuts down between noon and 1:30 pm. Government workers tend to take longer breaks between 11:30 am and 2:00 pm.

The Time zone is (UTC+07:00).

Related Chapters

Culture and religion in Vietnam

Economy of Vietnam

The Government


Legal System

Regulatory Framework

Banking & Finance

Capital Markets

Land & Housing

Labour Law


Intellectual Property

Selected Sector Regulations

Dispute Resolution

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