Vietnam is drawing up a development master plan aimed at raising the  living standards of its 53 ethnic minority groups, after revealing that they account for more than half of households below the poverty line.

Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh said at a national workshop on Thursday that the strategy, which will cover the period 2021-30, will be based on 15 national policies, Viet Nam News reported. According to official sources, the Vietnamese government issued 41 documents with details of socio-economic issues that will be given priority in the plan.  

“Ministries and state agencies have tried their best to reduce poverty, achieving the national target program on sustainable reduction,” Binh said. They have also implemented policies providing support and social security, ensuring there will be no cases of food shortage.”

However, the minister and chairman of the Committee for Ethnic Minorities, Do Van Chien, admitted that unemployment, poverty, natural disasters and diseases were still presenting great challenges.

Minority groups like the Muong, Tay, Hmong and Hoa account for nearly 53% of household poverty in Vietnam. Their average incomes are only 40-50% of the average in their regions and 21% of minority people aged over 15 years are unable to read and write competently.

Chien said more than 54,000 ethnic minority households had no arable land, 58,000 were without any land to build a house and 223,000 households needed more water for daily use. He said it was essential that a budget be set aside for the more extremely disadvantaged groups.

Binh told the workshop that policies for minorities would be integrated into a national development program, but gave no further details.

There is dispute over how many ethnic minority people live in Vietnam, with the government insisting it is only one million but independent estimates ranging as high as seven million. The Tay, thought to number 1.6 million, or 2% of the population, are the largest minority group.