Vietnam´s GenZ: Family ties trump individualism

Why the GenZ concept of individualism doesn’t fit
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With about 13 million people, the GenZ, i.e. people born between 1997 and 2012, makes up about 19% of Vietnam's population. By 2025, this generation will make up about one-third of the countrys workforce and thus play a significant role in its developmentGlobally, there are general trends within this age cohort - from mindset and the use of social media to the affinity to technology. One of the core values attributed to this generation worldwide is their drive for individuality. However, this does not seem to hold up in Vietnam. The global trend towards greater individualism is diluted in this Southeast-Asian nation. Confucianism and strong family ties influence Vietnam´s young generation.


Individualism in Career and Work?

A broad-based study from Bavaria shows that intrinsically motivated reasons and the individual's talents play by far the greatest role in the choice of a course of study in the West. Extrinsic motives tend to be rated as less important. In contrast, Vietnamese economics student Phan Thuc Hien, other issues are important for him. In an interview with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Office in Vietnam, the 24-year-old says job prospects and parents wishes are the most important considerations for him and for many young people in Vietnam when deciding their major. “Studying economics is a common and realistic choice that most Vietnamese parents want.” Economics is trendy in Vietnam; parents want their kids to have a successful career.

Studying economics is a common and realistic choice that most Vietnamese parents want.

Phan Thuc Hien, 24, Vietnam
Phan Thuc Hien, 24, Vietnam

Individualism in marriage?

Education and career are not the only areas, in which many young Vietnamese make different choices compared to their counterparts in the West.  The average age that women get married in Germany is 32 years, whilst the average age for Vietnamese women is 22 years. Phan Thuc Hien explains that in Vietnam, the family plays an important role in pressuring couples to get married before the age of 30.  The purpose, he says, is to “solidify a stable and prosperous life together”. According to The Global Observer, a single woman in Vietnam, who reaches the age of 30, is harshly considered “left-over”.  In 2020, Vietnam implemented a policy that incentivizes marriage before the age of 30 and women having two children before the age of 35. However, the publication VietNamNet Global notes that the divorce rate in major Vietnamese cities has surged to 30% and is expected to reach levels similar to developed countries, which currently stand at 42-50%. The trend towards higher divorce rates among the younger generation in Vietnam indicates shifting attitudes towards marriage and family.

Individualism in politics?

According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials lag behind older generations in their interest in government and politics. Yet GenZ shows increased political engagement across the spectrum, giving the generation a voice within the political sphere.

However, this is not the case in Vietnam, a one-party state. Phan Thuc Hien explains that a political career choice is unattractive for Vietnamese youth due to meager salaries in politics. “The salary of a government official is a lot lower than the market rate. The rate of young people quitting government posts or politically related jobs increases every year.”

In many other areas, especially related to lifestyle and consumption, the GenZ in Vietnam is starting to take steps in line with their Western peers. However, there is still a prevailing conservative view, which has a large impact on Vietnamese youth and their choices. In the future, it will be interesting to observe whether there will be changes in the next generations or if conservative values will still have a direct impact on the Vietnamese youth.