Rural–Urban Migration in Vietnam: Trend and Institutions

Part of the Population Economics book series (POPULATION)


The household registration system known as ho khau has been an important instrument in regulating internal migration in Vietnam. The first part of this chapter documents the historical roots of the system and its changes. In addition, it analyses the impacts of ho khau on migrants’ rights to access a wide range of social services such as social and health insurance, education for their children, housing and utilities. The second part of this chapter analyses the scale and trend of rural–urban migration in Vietnam in the past two decades. Finally, it discusses the contributions of migrants both in their place of origin as well as in their destination cities.


  1. Acosta, P., Calderon, C., Fajnzylber, P., & Lopez, H. (2007). What is the impact of international remittances on poverty and inequality in Latin America? World Development, 36(1), 89–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams, J. R., & Page, J. (2005). Do international migration and remittances reduce poverty in developing countries? World Development, 33, 1645–1669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anh, L. T. K. (2013). Health and access to health services of rural-to-urban migrant populations in Viet Nam.Google Scholar
  4. Anh, L. T. K., Lien, P. T. L., Nam, B. D. T., Lan, V. H., & Schelling, E. (2012). Situation of living conditions and health service utilization of migrants in Sai Dong industrial zone, Long Bien, HaNoi 2011. Journal of Military Pharmaco–Medicine, 2.Google Scholar
  5. Anh, L. T. K., Lan, H. V., & Schelling, E. (2015, December). Utilization of health care services among internal migrants in Hanoi and its correlation with health insurance: A cross-sectional study. Tap Chi Y Te Cong Cong [Journal of Public Health], 3(2), 44–56.
  6. Bui, T. Q. (2011). School dropout trends in Vietnam from 1988 to 2006. In J. London (Ed.), Education in Vietnam. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.Google Scholar
  7. Bui, T. C., Anh, T. S., & Goodkind, D. (2000). Older people in Vietnam amidst transformations in social welfare policy. In D. R. Phillips (Ed.), Ageing in the Asia-pacific region: Issues, policies and future trends. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Cling, J.-P., Chi, N. H., Razafindrakoto, M., & Roubaud, F. (2010, December). How deep was the impact of the economic crisis in Vietnam? A focus on the informal sector in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Policy Brief, GSO/IRD-DIAL project, Hanoi.Google Scholar
  9. Collins, N. (2011). Vietnam’s labour relations and the global financial crisis. Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 19(2), 60–70.Google Scholar
  10. Collins, N., & Zhu, Y. (2003). Vietnam’s labour policies reform. In S. Frost, O. George, & E. Shepherd (Eds.), Asia Pacific labour law review: Workers’ rights for the new century. Hong Kong: Asia Monitor Resource Center Ltd.Google Scholar
  11. Cu, C. L. (2005). Rural to urban migration in Vietnam. In H. H. Thanh, & S. Sakata (Eds.), Impact of socio-economic changes on the livelihoods of people living in poverty in Vietnam. Tokyo: Institute of Developing Economies–Japan External Trade Organization (IDE-JETRO), ASEDP No. 71.
  12. Daily Mail Online. (2015, December 13). Packed cities, empty villages: Vietnam’s migration dilemma. Daily Mail Online.
  13. Dang, N. A. (2005). Internal migration: Opportunities and challenges for the renovations and development in Vietnam. Hanoi: Social Development Programme, Viet Nam–Asia Pacific Economic Center.Google Scholar
  14. Dang, N. A., Tacoli, C., & Thanh, H. X. (2004). Stay on the farm, weave in the village, leave the home. Hanoi: The Gioi Publisher.Google Scholar
  15. De Brauw, A. (2009). Seasonal migration and agricultural production in Vietnam. Journal of Development Studies, 40(1), 114–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. De Brauw, A., & Harigaya, T. (2007). Seasonal migration and improving living standards in Vietnam. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 89(2), 430–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. De Luca, J. (2017, April 8). Vietnam’s left-behind urban migrants: Tough restrictions on internal migration are trapping Vietnam’s rural-to-urban migrants in a vicious cycle of poverty. The Diplomat.
  18. Demombynes, G., & Vu, L. H. (2016). Vietnam’s household registration system. Washington, DC: World Bank Group.
  19. Demurger, S. (2015). Migration and families left behind. IZA World of Labor, 144, 1–10.Google Scholar
  20. Ekman, B., Liem, N. T., Duc, H. A., & Axelson, H. (2008). Health insurance reform in Vietnam: A review of recent developments and future challenges. Health Policy Plan, 23(4), 252–263. Scholar
  21. General Statistics Office (GSO). (2006). The 2004 migration survey: Migration and health. Hanoi: SAVINA Printing Company.Google Scholar
  22. General Statistics Office (GSO). (2011). The 2009 Vietnam population and housing census: Migration and urbanization in Vietnam—patterns, trends and differentials. Hanoi: Statistical Publishing House.Google Scholar
  23. General Statistics Office (GSO). (2014). Results of the survey on households living standard 2012. Hanoi: Statistical Publishing House.Google Scholar
  24. General Statistics Office (GSO). (2015, September). The 1/4/2014 Vietnam intercensal population and housing survey: Major findings. GSO: Hanoi.Google Scholar
  25. General Statistics Office (GSO). (2017). GSO website on national accounts and state budget - gross domestic product at current prices by economic sector.
  26. General Statistics Office (GSO), & United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). (2005). Vietnam migration survey 2004. Hanoi: Statistical Publishing House.Google Scholar
  27. General Statistics Office (GSO), & United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). (2016). The 2015 national internal migration survey: Major findings. Hanoi: Vietnam News Agency Publishing House.Google Scholar
  28. Gough, K. V., & Tran, H. A. (2009). Changing housing policy in Vietnam: Emerging inequalities in a residential area of Hanoi. Cities, 26(4), 175–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Guo, S. (2006). Historical background and pre-transition models. In The political economy of Asian transition from Communism. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  30. Hoang, X. T., Anh, D. N., & Tacoli, C. (2005, March). Livelihood diversification and rural–urban linkaes in Vietnam’s red river delta (Working paper series on rural–urban interactions and livelihood strategies No. 11). London: International Institute for Environment and Development.Google Scholar
  31. International Organisation for Migration (IOM). (2015). Household registration in Vietnam from multidimensional perspectives: A qualitative study. Hanoi: Institute of Sociology.Google Scholar
  32. Jones, N., Presler-Marshall, E., & Thuy, D. B. (2014). Falling between the cracks: How poverty and migration are resulting in inadequate care for children living in Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta. London: Overseas Development Institute.
  33. Kalra, S. (2015). Vietnam: The global economy and macroeconomic outlook. Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, 32(1), 11–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ladinsky, J., & Levine, E. (1985). The organization of health services in Vietnam. Journal of Public Health Policy, 6(2), 255–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lazarte-Alcala, N., Adkins, L. C., Lahiri, B., & Savvides, A. (2014). Remittances and income diversification in Bolivia’s rural sector. Applied Economics, 46(8), 848–858.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Le, D. B., & Nguyen, L. T. (2011). From countryside to cities: Socioeconomic impacts of migration in Vietnam. Hanoi: Workers’ Publishing House, Institute for Social Development Studies.Google Scholar
  37. Le, B. D., Linh, T. G., & Thao, N. T. P. (2011). Social protection for rural–urban migrants in Vietnam: Current situation, challenges and opportunities. CSP Research Report 08. Hanoi: Institute for Social Development Studies.Google Scholar
  38. Leung, S. (2015). The Vietnamese economy: Seven years after the global financial crisis. Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, 32(1), 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Liu, A. Y. C. (2004, June). Sectoral gender wage gap in Vietnam. Oxford Development Studies, 32(2), 225–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Liu, A. Y. C. (2015). Wage differential between urban workers and rural migrants in Vietnam: Segregation or discrimination? Paper presented to the Study of Rural–Urban Migration in Vietnam with Insight from China and Indonesia Conference, 13–14 January, Hanoi.Google Scholar
  41. Luong, H. V. (2003). Wealth, power, and inequality: Global market, the state, and local sociocultural dynamics. In H. V. Luong (Ed.), Postwar Vietnam: Dynamics of a transforming society. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  42. Meng, X., & Zhang, D. (2010). Labour market impact of large scale internal migration on Chinese urban native workers (IZA Discussion Paper No. 52). Bonn: Institute for the Study of Labor.Google Scholar
  43. Ministry of Health (MOH). (1992). Strategy for health for all by the year 2000 and strategic health plan for the period 1990–1995. Hanoi: Ministry of Health.Google Scholar
  44. Mu, R., & de Brauw, A. (2013). Migration and young child nutrition: Evidence from rural China (IZA Discussion Paper No. 7466). Bonn: Institute for the Study of Labor.Google Scholar
  45. Nguyen, T. L. (2006). Migration, development and inequality in Vietnam on the way to renovation and integration. Sociological Review, 3, 61–72.Google Scholar
  46. Nguyen, T. H. (2014). Constitutional rights and dialogic process in socialist Vietnam: Protecting rural-to-urban migrants’ rights without a constitutional court. In S. H. Williams (Ed.), Social difference and constitutionalism in Pan-Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Nguyen, D. L., & Grote, U. (2015). Migration, agricultural production and diversification: A case study from Vietnam. Paper presented to the 29th International Conference of Agricultural Economists, Milan, Italy.Google Scholar
  48. Nguyen, Q. K., & Nguyen, Q. C. (2008). Education in Vietnam: Development history, challenges, and solutios. In B. Fredriksen & J. P. Tan (Eds.), An African exploration of the East Asian education experience. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  49. Nguyen, C., & Vu, L. (2017, March 10). The impact of migration and remittance on household welfare: Evidence from Vietnam (MPRA 80084).Google Scholar
  50. Nguyen, L. T., & White, M. J. (2007). Health status of temporary migrants in urban areas in Vietnam. International Migration, 45(4), 101–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Nguyen, T. H., Ha, L. T., Rifkin, S. B., & Wright, E. P. (1995). The pursuit of equity: A health sector case study from Vietnam. Health Policy, 33, 191–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Nguyen, T. P., Tam, T. N. T. M., Nguyet, N. T., & Oostendrop, R. (2008). Determinants and impacts of migration in Viet Nam (Working Papers Series No. 012008). Hanoi: Development and Policies Research Center (DEPOCEN).Google Scholar
  53. Nguyen, V. C., Van den Berg, M., & Lensink, R. L. (2011). The impact of work and non-work migration on household welfare, poverty and inequality: New evidence from Vietnam. Economics of Transition, 19(4), 771–799.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Nguyen, D. A., Binh, T. M., & Mai, L. A. (2016, June). Microsimulation of impacts of tax and transfer in Vietnam (WIDER Working Paper 2016/73). United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research.Google Scholar
  55. Niimi, Y., Pham, T. H., & Reilly, B. (2008). Determinants of remittances: Recent evidence using data on internal migrants in Vietnam (Policy Research Working Paper No. 4586). Washington, DC: World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
  56. Noltze, M. (2008). Backyard living: Integrative policies towards migrant workers; housing microfinance in greater HoChi Minh City, Vietnam. ASEAS, Österreichische Zeitschrift für Südostasienwissenschaften, 1(2), 19–33. Scholar
  57. Oxfam. (2017, January). Even it up: How to tackle inequality in Vietnam (Oxfam Briefing Paper, 12).
  58. Oxfam and ActionAid. (2012). Participatory monitoring of urban poverty in Viet Nam: Five-year synthesis report (2008–2012). Hanoi: Oxfam and ActionAid.Google Scholar
  59. Peng, Y., Chang, W., Zhou, H., Hu, H., & Liang, W. (2010, March). Factors associated with health-seeking behavior among migrant workers in Beijing, China. BioMed Health Service Research, 10(19), 69. Scholar
  60. Pfau, W. D., & Long, G. T. (2010). Remittances, living arrangements and the welfare of the elderly in Vietnam (Working Paper). Scalabrini Migration Center.
  61. Phan, D., & Coxhead, I. (2010). Inter-provincial migration and inequality during Vietnam’s transition. Journal of Development Economics, 91(1), 100–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Phe, H. H. (2002). Investment in residential property: Taxonomy of home improvers in Central Hanoi. Habitat International, 26, 471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Pincus, J. (2015). Why doesn’t Vietnam grow faster? State fragmentation and the limits of vent for surplus growth. Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, 32(1), 26–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Priwitzer, K. (2012). Vietnamese health care system in change: A policy network analysis of a Southeast Asian welfare regime. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Raut, N. K., & Tanaka, R. (2016, November 16). Parental absence, remittances, and educational investment of children left behind: Evidence from Nepal. Manuscript.
  66. Raymond, C. (2008). ‘No responsibility and no rice’: The rise and fall of agricultural collectivization in Vietnam. Agricultural History, 82(1), 43–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Regmi, M., & Paudel, K. P. (2016). Impact of remittance on food security in Bangladesh. In A. Schmitz, P. L. Kennedy, & T. G. Schmitz (Eds.), Food security in a food abundant world [Frontiers of economics and globalization, volume 16]. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing.Google Scholar
  68. Save the Children UK. (2006). Report on a rapid assessment of the situation of migrant children in Vietnam: Summary report. Hanoi: Save the Children UK.Google Scholar
  69. Sawamoto, A. (2014). Vietnam’s rural-to-urban migrant families: Educational and social inequalities in a transitional society. PhD thesis, Graduate School of Sciences, Columbia University.Google Scholar
  70. Somanathan, A., Tandon, A., Dao, H. L., Hurt, K. L., & Fuenzalida-Puelma, H. L. (2014). Moving toward universal health coverage of social health insurance: Assessment and options. Washington DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  71. Taylor, J. E., & Lopez-Feldman, A. (2010). Does migration make rural households more productive? Evidence from Mexico. Journal of Development Studies, 46(1), 68–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Thanh Nien News. (2010, December 10, Friday 09:25). Urban poor undetected by Vietnam, NGOs say.Google Scholar
  73. Tran, C. (2015, August 3). Housing rural-to-urban migrants in Ho Chi Minh City. Manuscript.Google Scholar
  74. Trinh, D. L., Vinh, N. Q., Wiesman, B., & Leaf, M. (2000). The socioeconomic impacts of renovation on urban housing in Vietnam. In P. Boothroyd & P. X. Nam (Eds.), Socioeconomic renovation in Viet Nam: The origin, evolution, and impact of Doi Moi. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.Google Scholar
  75. Turok, I., & McGranahan, G. (2013). Urbanization and economic growth: The arguments and evidence for Africa and Asia. Environment and Urbanisation, 25(2), 456–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. United Nations Development Program (UNDP). (2010). Internal migration: Opportunities and challenges for social-economic development in Viet Nam. Hanoi: UNDP.Google Scholar
  77. United Nations Development Program (UNDP). (2016, January). Growth that works for all: Viet Nam human development report 2015 on inclusive growth. Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House.Google Scholar
  78. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). (2007, June). Internal migration in Vietnam: The current situation. Ha Noi: UNFPA.Google Scholar
  79. United Nations Population Fund (UNICEF) and Vietnam & Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA). (2009). Creating a protective environment for children in Viet Nam: An assessment of child protection laws and policies, especially children in special circumstances in Viet Nam. Hanoi, Vietnam.Google Scholar
  80. Van Arkadie, B., & Mallon, R. (2003). Viet Nam: A Transition tiger? Canberra: Asia Pacific Press.Google Scholar
  81. Viet Nam News. (2015, February 27). Banks pocket profits from personal loans. Viet Nam News.
  82. Vietcombank website. Retrieved September 5, 2017, from
  83. Vietnam Breaking News. (2017, November 6). Household registration book to be scrapped. Current residence management methods to stay. Vietnam Breaking News.Google Scholar
  84. Vietnam National Assembly. (2006a). Law on social insurance. Hanoi.Google Scholar
  85. Vietnam National Assembly. (2006b). Law on residence. Hanoi.Google Scholar
  86. Vietnam National Assembly. (2008). Health insurance law no. 25/2008/QH12. Hanoi.Google Scholar
  87. Vietnam Parliamentarians’ Association for Population Development (VAPPD). (2006). Assessment on urban migration policy. Parliamentary committee for social affairs. Hanoi: Vietnam Parliamentarians’ Association for Population Development.Google Scholar
  88. Weibel, M. (2008). Migration to greater Ho Chi Minh City in the course of Doi Moi policy: Spatial dimensions, consequences and policy changes with special reference to housing. In Conference on migration into cities: Patterns, processes and regulation. 25–27 October 2007. Berlin: Irmgard Coninx Foundation.Google Scholar
  89. World Bank. (2009). World development report 2009: Reshaping economic geography. Washington DC: The World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. World Bank. (2014). Study of Vietnam’s Ho Khau system: Concept note. Hanoi: The World Bank.Google Scholar
  91. World Bank. (2015). Household registration survey 2015: Analysis report. Hanoi: The World Bank and Mekong Development Research Center.Google Scholar
  92. World Bank and Ministry of Planning and Investment of Vietnam. (2016). Vietnam 2035: Toward prosperity, creativity, equity, and democracy. Washington, DC: World Bank. Scholar
  93. Zhang, H. X., Kelly, P. M., Locke, C., Winkels, A., & Adger, W. N. (2006). Migration in a transitional economy: Beyond the planned and spontaneous dichotomy in Vietnam. Geoforum, 37(6), 1066–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Zhao, Y. (2000). Rural-to-urban labor migration in China: The past and the present. In L. A. West & Y. Zhao (Eds.), Rural labor flows in China. Berkeley, CA: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California Press.Google Scholar
  95. Zhou, C., Sylvia, S., Zhang, L., Luo, R., Yi, H., Liu, C., Shi, Y., Loyalka, P., Chu, J., Medina, A., & Rozelle, S. (2015). China’s left-behind children: Impact of parental migration on health, nutrition, and educational outcomes. Health Affairs, 34(11), 1–9. Scholar
  96. Zhu, K. (2015). Migration, remittances and education: A review of the educational performance of left-behind children in rural China. Bachelor thesis, Department of Sociology, Lund University.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International and Development Economics, Crawford School of Public PolicyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Department for Analysis and ForecastNational (NCIF), Ministry of Planning and InvestmentHanoiVietnam

Personalised recommendations