In the space of three decades, Vietnam has been transformed from one of the poorest nations in the world to a lower middle income country with big aspirations. According to the World Bank, 45 million Vietnamese have been lifted out of poverty in the last twenty years.
If you are looking to set up business in Asia, Vietnam is well worth your consideration. We present some of the advantages this vibrant and growing economy offers below.
Why Vietnam is attractive for business
Vietnam’s economy is booming
Vietnam’s economy has been on an upwards trajectory since the mid-1990s. The graph below shows steady GDP growth for the country over the last quarter century, which has made it one of the fastest expanding economies in ASEAN.
Vietnam has worked hard to bring down poverty rates from 70% to below 6% in the period from 2002 to 2018 – an impressive drop which is reflected by a growing middle class.
Vietnam has an expanding manufacturing sector
Vietnam has benefitted from the US-China trade war by picking up trade lost by China. In the first quarter of 2019 Vietnam’s exports to the US rose by 28.8% making the States the largest importer of Vietnamese goods. A number of large multinational manufacturers, including Samsung, LG, Nike and Adidas , as well as lesser-known brands, have moved to Vietnam as a result. Export-orientated manufacturing plays a huge role in the economy and while the sector was hit by Covid-19 it has already returned to growth as of September 2020.
Vietnam has a resilient economy
In September the Asian Development Bank (ADB) released a report predicting that Vietnam’s economy will defy Covid-19 chaos and record growth of 1.8% in 2020 with 6.3% growth predicted for 2021. The Vietnamese government has been praised for its handling of the pandemic with just 1,158 cases and 35 deaths recorded (at the time of writing). Despite heavy reliance on the tourism sector, which has been destroyed by Covid-19, the positive figures show that Vietnam’s economy is proving resilient.
This adds weight to the World Bank’s pre-pandemic assessment of Vietnam in 2019 ‘…Vietnam’s economy continued to show fundamental strength and resilience, supported by robust domestic demand and export-oriented manufacturing. Real GDP grew by an estimated 7% in 2019, similar to 2018, one of the fastest growth rates in the region.’
Vietnam has an emerging middle class
Vietnam is in the throws of a seismic transformation in terms of demographics and social status. The population has swelled by over a third since 1986 to 96.5 million with 70% of the population under the age of 35. In 2019 13% of the population was middle class but this percentage is expected to double by 2026. This emerging middle class with their increased purchasing power will be one of the motors which drives Vietnam’s economy forward.
Vietnam is investing heavily in infrastructure
Infrastructure has not historically been Vietnam’s strong point but vast improvements are planned as a result of significant investment from the government, as well as private-sector participation. US$14billion is being ploughed into a 1,372km highway connecting the north and south of the country, US$22billion into rapid transit systems in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh and a further $120billion into various projects within the road and power sectors.
Vietnam has made great progress in strengthening trade links
The Vietnamese government recognises the importance of free trade agreements (FTA) in ensuring that the country remains competitive in the short to medium term. In February 2020, after eight years of negotiation, Vietnam and the EU ratified the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) which is expected to have a huge impact on trade by reducing tariffs and regulatory barriers as well as making it easier for EU entrepreneurs to set up in Vietnam. Vietnam is only the second ASEAN country, after Singapore, to have ratified an FTA with the EU so this is quite a coup which should attract significant investment.
In addition Vietnam is a member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which facilitates trade with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Singapore.
It is easy to do business in Vietnam
Vietnam ranked 70th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report. It ranked strongest in the ease of getting credit and paying taxes criteria. The report noted improvements in accessing finance as well as the day-to-day running of a business but highlighted a need for further digitisation and the streamlining of business processes. The government is actively working to improve the business environment in Vietnam.
Vietnam’s workforce is a competitive advantage
The Vietnamese workforce is renowned for being extremely hardworking. A focus on education in recent decades has played a key role in producing a young, well-educated population. A 2014 World Bank report remarked that ‘literacy and numeracy among Vietnam’s adult workforce is widespread and more so than in other countries, including wealthier ones.’ The nation’s well-educated labour force is a huge asset which contributes to the country’s economic growth and makes recruiting productive and capable candidates easy. Vietnam’s minimum wage is also competitive compared to some of its Asian neighbours.
The World Bank describes Vietnam as ‘one of the most dynamic emerging countries in East Asia region’ and ‘one of the few countries in the world not to expect a recession’ as a result of Covid-19. If you are looking to set up business in Asia, you could do a lot worse than choose Vietnam. If you are looking to set up business in Asia, you could do a lot worse than choose Vietnam.
Infinity provides corporate business solutions to businesses across Asia, including in Vietnam. If you’re looking for a partner to meet your insurance, group pension or currency exchange requirements we’d love to hear from you.