No. 19  The Gender Implications of Public Sector Downsizing: The Reform Program of Vietnam
by Martin Rama

Men and women may be affected differently by major economic reforms and, especially, by public sector downsizing. Unfortunately the literature is not informative enough to predict the effects of a specific program. This article illustrates several analyses that could precede the launching of a sizeable downsizing operation, taking Vietnam as an example. First, the article uses employment data to assess the prospects for women to get salaried jobs. While these prospects worsened with recent reforms, they are bound to improve in the near future. Second, it estimates Mincerian equations to predict how reforms could affect the gender gap in labor earnings. Reforms are associated with a sharp decline in the gender gap, both in the state sector and out of it. Third, it analyzes the correlation between female employment and indicators of labor redundancy by sector. Over-staffing is concentrated in male-dominated activities, such as construction, mining and transportation, but is smaller in female-dominated activities, such as footwear, textile and garments. Fourth, the article reviews programs that are in place to assist redundant workers, such as early retirement and re-training. It uncovers no evidence of a strong gender bias in them. Finally, the article assesses the potential gender biases of three standard compensation packages for redundant workers. Packages defined as a multiple of earnings would be more favorable to men, whereas lump-sum packages would favor women.

This paper is part of a series of papers on selected topics commissioned for the forthcoming Policy Research Report(PRR) on Gender and Development. The PRR is being carried out by Elizabeth King and Andrew Mason and co-sponsored by the World Bank’s Development Economics Research Group and the Gender and Development Group of the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network. Printed copies of this paper are available free from the World Bank, 1818 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20433. Please contact Tai Lui Tan, in room MC3-624A or at Comments are welcome and should be sent directly to the author(s) at

The full-length paper is available in PDF format.