The report on the Vietnamese youth generation research published by the British Council in August shows young people’s perspectives in many aspects, with Vietnamese youths most concerned about food security and decent jobs, and pay little attention to public issues such as corruption and climate action.
Specifically, according to the survey results, up to 70% of Vietnamese between the age of 16 and 30 said that food security and job stability are their top concerns.
Meanwhile, domestic current affairs do not seem to be of much interest to young people. Only 26% expressed interest in the ongoing anti-corruption work, which has been a hot topic in Vietnam in recent years. The anti-corruption peak campaign was directed by General Secretary cum State President Nguyen Phu Trong. Many high-ranking government officials, top military and police officers and heads of state-owned companies have been arrested and jailed on charges ranging from money laundering to poor management in recent years.
From Hanoi, PhD in sociology Pham Quynh Huong, of the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, when commenting with Radio Free Asia on August 28, 2020, said that this survey may not be very true. However, she also admits that today’s young people have little interest in country’s issues and politics:
“When people talk about politics, they must understand what politics is, because actually Vietnamese people in general and young people, in particular, understand politics quite differently. So if you go to interview people to survey people without saying what politics is, the result may not be very correct, it is about the results. However, it is true that young people really have little interest in politics.”
According to Huong, the reason is because young people mainly study in schools, but studying in schools today, there are not many discussions, no conflicting opinions, so young people do not care much to criticize, so it is difficult for young people to care about politics.
To find out the fact, RFA asked young people in three regions of the country about this issue. First of all, young Dang Quang, in Saigon, when he responded to RFA on August 28, said his opinion:
“If compared with reality, this record of the British Council is also quite accurate, most young people today care little about current social issues or the current state of the country, they only mostly care about matters of sports, humorous entertainment … or worry about doing business, but few people care about politics, in fact.”
Young Dang Quang said that his friends interested in politics mainly through Facebook … In fact, a group of classmates or colleagues, only 1 or 2 people out of ten have interest in politics like him. Quang continued:
“But compared to 4 or 5 years ago, the rate has increased. But also divided into two groups, one group is critical of the views or laws of the Vietnamese government, and one group supports … and somewhere these two groups still conflict and contradict each other.”
From Hanoi on August 28, young Do Nam Trung, when talking to RFA, also agreed that compared to 5 or 7 years ago, perhaps the number of young people participating in social activities, has dissent view, non-violent protest … outnumbered, much more than before. However, Do Nam Trung thinks that is still too few:
But really, compared to the population of 100 million people in Vietnam, that number is too small and young people who do not take care of the country’s issues and the current situation of society. I think partly because of the way of education and the rule of the Communist Party which makes people having an interest-only about food and money, not care about the painful social issues around themselves.”
According to a survey by the British Council, Vietnamese youth, apart from food security and career stability, also have 58% of young people interested in adequate living conditions, clean water and sanitation. In addition, 44% of respondents are interested in access to higher education. 39% of the 1,200 respondents nationwide are concerned with gender equality and 37% are concerned with the quality of health care. Clean energy is the main concern of 24% of respondents while 19% is concerned with equality for ethnic minorities.
Speaking with RFA on August 28, Huy Jos, a young man in the Central region, who had a strong voice along with the people of the Central region opposed Formosa before, said:
“Most people today are more interested in material life and livelihoods rather than political news. For me, I care about the issue of work-life and political news. I see that most young people today work for a living, not to live for search. That’s because education has not made people have critical thinking and people accept unjust in society.”
Notably in the British Council survey, only 14% of young people pay attention to actions against climate change, even though Vietnam is one of the six economies most affected by climate change from 1999 to 2018, according to the Global Climate Risk Index published last year by the German environmental organization Germanwatch.
The survey also found that the percentage of young people interested in peace, justice and similar strong institutions is 14%.
Young Dang Quang, from Saigon, added about the issue he most concerned about and most concerned about in Vietnam today:
“The issue that I am most concerned is the political issue of Vietnam, which is the rule of the fault mechanism in Vietnam. For example from this error mechanism, leading to many negative problems in the current society, such as the mechanism that creates the problem of corruption, or in general everything about political culture of education .. Thread from the error mechanism that comes out. What I worry is that if this mechanism continues to be there and we cannot change the current political regime, the negative problem of Vietnam will never be solved, that is for sure.”
However, despite not paying much attention to this issue, 67% of respondents said that the government should give first priority to suppressing corruption.
According to Do Nam Trung, compared to the common ground in the world, Vietnamese young people are not interested or willing to participate in the dissent movement. He said:
“I am an activist, I want to remind people that nothing is free, nothing is not impacting me, all economic, environmental, political issues are affecting people. If I do not pay attention to it then at some point it will affect me, especially politics will affect me in the most negative way. Therefore, if we want our life to change and become better, we must live more actively by participating in social movements, community movements, or have a better sense of protecting our living environment, protect our politics.”
The survey also found that 73% of Vietnamese youth consider social media the most reliable source of information for current affairs, followed by Internet and websites (69%), television (59%), and communication (43%).
As of January 2020, Vietnam had 68.7 million Internet users, an increase of 6.2 million or 10% year-on-year, according to British advertising and marketing agency We Are Social.
How will the fact that more and more young people who do not care about current affairs, politics, society … affect the future of the country? Sociology Ph.D. Pham Quynh Huong said her opinion:
“I think it also affects because when these young people grow up, they become the breadwinners of their families, is the main labor force of society, but people do not care much about their surroundings just caring for themselves or their families, it is detrimental to the development of the general community as well as society. Because in society there are always conflicts, families also have conflicts, but if people do not have views on how to respect multidimensional opinions, respect for the common, respect for the common good of the community, but only care for an individual family, it is very difficult to build a harmonious society together.”
Therefore, according to Huong, the society will always exist unresolved conflicts and there will be no social consensus to together build a more prosperous and strong community.