Pension Reforms in Viet Nam: Voices of Local Citizenry
Many developing countries have reformed their national pension systems in response to ageing populations and to increase pension scheme participation. The World Bank has been active in pension reforms in developing countries since the 1990s, and Vietnamese pension reforms since 2004 have reflected many proposals of the World Bank – a leading international donor to Viet Nam since 1993. There have been many criticisms of the World Bank’s pension privatisation proposals for developing countries – for example, the World Bank did not take into account country-specific environmental factors such as financial market conditions and regulatory capacity, and it focused on economic growth rather than old-age poverty reduction.
This research studies whether the Vietnamese pension reforms, with the World Bank as an active agent, have taken into account the concerns and expectations of an important stakeholder group: the Vietnamese people. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews and a survey of Vietnamese people. The findings from interviews and the survey were analysed with reference to the World Bank’s proposals for Viet Nam and changes in Vietnamese legislation. The aim of the research is to explore the extent to which the World Bank, with its global power, and the Vietnamese government, with its dependence on global finance and technical knowledge, have responded to concerns and expectations of Vietnamese people.
This research adopts postcolonial theory to examine the relationship between agents with different power levels. Using terms from postcolonial theory, these agents are the neo-colonial power, the colonised, and the colonised subaltern. In seeking to hear the voices of the colonised subaltern, the research provides empirical evidence to support the claim that the neo-colonial power and the colonised ruling class have attended inadequately to the voices of the subaltern, especially the subordinate subaltern. This research finds that the more subordinate the situations of people are, the lower level of trust they show and the less willing they are to participate in a contributory pension scheme in Viet Nam. The research also finds that the World Bank’s pension proposals for Viet Nam and Vietnamese pension reforms pay inadequate attention to low levels of trust in pension management, inadequate pension amounts, and the vital role of familial support for older people.
These findings suggest the importance of listening to the voices of the subaltern, which should lower their resistance. Specifically, people’s trust in pension management should be improved if developing countries want to increase pension participation, especially for the groups who are likely to be poor in old age, such as people with informal employment and with lower educational attainment. Moreover, the more balanced priorities in goals to better match people’s views and concerns can be helpful for agents with power in order to achieve the mission of poverty alleviation.