Demographics of Vietnam - Regional Outlook & Trends in 2023

The prospect of getting old before getting rich could mean that Vietnam will have less time to adapt to an aging society than many advanced economies.
Last Updated: April 21, 2023


Population growth outlook of Vietnam

With a population of approximately 99.5 million, Vietnam is the 15th most populous country in the world and the 3rd most populous country in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia and the Philippines. The current demographics are conducive to a stable economy, with the country achieving productivity and economic growth over the past few decades. As of 2021, the working-age population will be approximately 67 million, accounting for 67% of the total population. This part of the working population will increase over the next few decades and continue to support economic growth.

Such a population structure is supported by a stable population growth rate. From 2000 to 2019, the national population growth rate has remained at around 1% for many years. However, in recent years, due to the epidemic and the continued two-child policy to restrict births, the population growth rate has dropped below 1%, and it will be 0.8% in 2021, which is the same as the average level of middle-income countries.

Vietnam’s two-child policy is the main reason for maintaining the slow population decline. The government strictly enforced the “ One Child Policy ” in the early 1980s , restricting citizens to a maximum of two children, and formally legislated it in 1986. The government relaxed the two-child policy in 2003, allowing certain families to have a second child, but the restrictions remain strict, subject to approval from the local government. This policy has reduced Vietnam’s total fertility rate (TFR) from its peak of 6.0 in the 1970s to the current level of around 2.0, and has remained stable at this level for more than 20 years.

At the same time, the number of foreign immigrants in Vietnam is very small and the outflow also restrains population growth to a certain extent. According to the report of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), international immigrants accounted for less than 0.08% of Vietnam’s population in 2020 . Only 76,767 people registered as immigrants. In contrast, Vietnam’s net population migration rate has averaged -0.8% over the past five years, making it one of the major exporters of labor. There are 3.2 million Vietnamese living abroad, 47 percent of them in North America, and an average of 100,000 workers leave each year, with East Asia as the main destination.

With declining fertility rates and rising life expectancy, Vietnam’s older population is projected to make up 10% to just under 20% of its population by 2035. The average life expectancy of Vietnamese is about 75 years, which is quite high for a middle-income country. This has also led to Vietnam facing the problem of an aging society, and Vietnam will face the prospect of getting old before getting rich.

Vietnam’s per capita GDP is 40% of the global average, and there is still a certain distance from the middle-to-high income level. And the speed at which its population is aging means it will have less time to adapt to an aging society than many advanced economies. According to the World Bank report , Vietnam’s old-age dependency ratio, which is the population over 65 divided by the working population, will increase from 13% in 2021 to 22% in 2039, close to the 26% of today’s high-income countries such as the United States.

Table of Contents
Vietnam - Shares of Population by Age Group
Vietnam - Factors Behind Growth (Per Thousand People)


Population Structure & Trends in Vietnam


Ethnicity & Culture in Vietnam

According to statistics from the CIA in 2019, the main ethnic group in Vietnam is the Kinh (Vietnamese) ethnic group, accounting for 85.3% of the population. This dominant ethnic group has been influential in shaping various aspects of Vietnamese society.

The official language of Vietnam is Viet Nam, a language of the Austro-Asian language family written primarily using the Latin alphabet. With the Kinh as the main ethnic group, the Vietnamese language is widely spoken throughout the country. However, in ethnic minority areas, such as Tay, Thai, Muong and other ethnic groups’ residential areas, they still use their respective languages ​​for daily communication.

In terms of religion, Vietnam is an officially atheist country. Yet despite government laws protecting freedom of belief, the Vietnamese Communist Party and state maintain controversial control over religious organizations . All religious institutions are required to register with the government and preaching is prohibited. According to the 2009 census, only 19.2% of Vietnam’s population believes in a registered religion, and 81.8% of the population has no religion. However, the Pew Research Center estimates that 45.3 percent of Vietnamese practice a folk religion. Vietnamese folk religion is usually a mixture of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, known as the “Three Religions” (Tam Giáo).

Culturally, Vietnamese traditions are heavily influenced by its main ethnic group, the Kinh. Influenced by Confucianism, Vietnamese society emphasizes family values, respect for elders and an individual’s place in society. In addition, Vietnamese culture also incorporates elements of Buddhism and Taoism.


Kinh (Viet) 85.3%, Tay 1.9%, Thai 1.9%, Muong 1.5%, Khmer 1.4%, Mong 1.4%, Nung 1.1%, other 5.5% (2019 est. by CIA)


Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer, mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)


Catholic 6.1%, Buddhist 5.8%, Protestant 1%, other 0.8%, none 86.3% (2009 est. by CIA)

Vietnam - Education Overview
Vietnam - Tertiary Education %


Labor Outlook in Vietnam

Vietnam’s low-cost labor has long been a major factor attracting investment from foreign manufacturers. However, with Vietnam’s rapid economic development, the labor market is undergoing significant changes.

As the impact of the pneumonia epidemic has eased, the labor market has gradually stabilized. However, the aging population structure has forced the government to adjust the retirement age. In 2022, the government introduced changes that raised the retirement ages for both men and women, to 60 years and six months for men and 55 years and eight months for women, helping to expand the official working-age population.

In terms of manufacturing, both employers and employees will face a series of challenges and difficulties in 2022. However, even amid a slowing global economy and reduced orders, manufacturing employment in Vietnam has continued to grow. In the third quarter, compared with the second quarter of 2022, the number of new jobs increased by 156,000 .

As for the tourism and hospitality industries, these industries may be the most affected by the epidemic. The prolonged closure of borders has caused many workers to leave the tourism industry permanently. With Vietnam’s borders reopening in May 2022, the tourism industry still faces difficulties recruiting enough labor despite an increase in the number of foreign tourists.

In the information technology industry, Vietnam has become one of the most active entrepreneurial markets in Southeast Asia during the epidemic. However, the industry currently has a shortfall of one-third in high-quality workers. It is estimated that by 2024, the information technology industry will have a shortage of about 195,000 employees compared with market demand.

Vietnam - Labor Participation Rate
Vietnam - Labor Participation by Group
Vietnam - Participation rate by sectors


Regional Developments in Vietnam

Vietnam is a geographically diverse country with a population growth of approximately 12.1% between 2011 and 2021. The Red River Delta region in the north, as the political and cultural center, has the capital Hanoi and has attracted a large number of people. At the same time, the Mekong Delta region in the south is dominated by agriculture, has good water conservancy conditions, and provides a rich source of food for the country, but its infrastructure and industrial development are relatively weak, which limits population growth to a certain extent. It is worth mentioning that Vietnam’s industrial development in recent years has also achieved remarkable results, especially in the southeast region of the south, which has attracted a large number of international companies to invest and build factories here, driving local economic and population growth.

The population of the Red River Delta region has been growing steadily over the past ten years, with a growth rate of 15.70%, because the region has Vietnam’s political and cultural center of gravity. The prosperity of the capital, Hanoi, has attracted mass migration, driving population growth in the region. According to statistics, the population of the Red River Delta has increased from 20.06 million in 2011 to 23.22 million in 2021.

In contrast, population growth in the North Central and Central Coast regions has been slower, with a growth rate of only 7.70% between 2011 and 2021. This is related to the limited resources and slow economic development in the region. However, the natural scenery and characteristic culture of this area have attracted a certain degree of domestic and foreign tourists, driving the development of local tourism.

At the same time, the Southeast region in the south, as the economic center of Vietnam, has Ho Chi Minh City, the commercial center of the country. Between 2011 and 2021, the region’s population growth rate reached 23.80%, much higher than the national average. This is mainly due to the vigorous development of economic activities in the region, as well as the rapid increase of various investment projects. Vietnam’s industrial development in recent years has been particularly prominent in this region. Factors such as low labor costs and superior geographical location have attracted a large number of international companies to invest and build factories here. These enterprises have brought a large number of employment opportunities to the local area, so that more and more people choose to settle here, which in turn promotes the population growth of the area. According to statistics, the population of the Southeast region has increased from 14.79 million in 2011 to 18.31 million in 2021.

In contrast, the Mekong Delta has experienced a relatively slow population growth rate of only 0.70% over the past decade, and the population of many cities is declining. Although this area has abundant water resources and a high level of agricultural development, due to the low-lying terrain, relatively weak infrastructure and industrial development, the population growth has been limited. Between 2009 and 2019, about 1.1 million local residents left The Mekong Delta travels to other parts of the country, mainly Ho Chi Minh City and other southeastern provinces. Nonetheless, food production in the region still makes an important contribution to Vietnam’s food security.

Finally, due to the complex terrain and harsh natural conditions, the populations of the Northern Highlands and Central Highlands are relatively scattered, but the population growth rates of these regions will reach 14.40% and 14.20% respectively between 2011 and 2021. Tourism resources and minority cultures in these areas have attracted a large number of tourists and driven the development of local tourism. At the same time, the mineral resources in the region also provide a certain support for its economic development.

Population by Major States/Regions | Thousands
GDP Per Capita by Major States/Regions | Unit: '000


  • Population project by age group: UN population database | Data after 2022 is estimated/forecasted | Forecasted with medium variant
  • Currency: nominal USD, unless otherwise specified. | IMF
  • Economic projection: OECD, IMF, EIU, Local Government
  • Culture, ethnicities, languages: CIA Factbook
  •  Education: World Bank
  • Labor ParticipationL ILO,
  • Data Aggregation & Calculation:
  • Analysis: Economic Team
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