Demographics of Vietnam

From Academic Kids

Originating in what is now southern China and northern Vietnam, the Vietnamese people pushed southward over two millennia to occupy the entire eastern seacoast of the Indochinese Peninsula. Ethnic Vietnamese (known officially as Kinh), live in the lowlands and speak the Vietnamese language. This group dominates much of the cultural and political landscape of Vietnam.

According to official Vietnamese figures (1999 census), ethnic Vietnamese account for 86% of the population of the country. However, official Vietnamese figures are known to grossly underestimate the native Khmer Krom of southern Vietnam. Fully counting the 8 million Khmer Krom (who make up 10% of the overall population of Vietnam, and 30% of the population of the Mekong River delta and the Ho Chi Minh City area), the ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) only make up 77% of Vietnam. In terms of land area, the ethnic Vietnamese inhabit a little less than half of Vietnam, while the ethnic minorities inhabit the majority of Vietnam's land (albeit the least fertile parts of the country).

The Khmer Krom, the largest minority, are found in the delta of the Mekong River, in the south of Vietnam, where they form in many areas the majority of the rural population. They live in an area which was previously part of Cambodia and which Vietnam conquered in the 17th and 18th centuries. Official Vietnamese figures put the Khmer Krom at 1.3 million people. However, when compared with South-Vietnamese censuses released before 1975, it is obvious that the 1.3 million figure is a gross underestimate. Using projections based on the pre-1975 censuses, Khmer Krom are estimated at 8 million people.

Vietnam's approximately 2.3 million ethnic Han Chinese, concentrated mostly in southern Vietnam, constitute Vietnam's second-largest minority group. Long important in the Vietnamese economy, Vietnamese of Chinese ancestry have been active in rice trading, milling, real estate, and banking in the south and shopkeeping, stevedoring, and mining in the north. Restrictions on economic activity following reunification in 1975 and the subsequent but unrelated general deterioration in Vietnamese-Chinese relations sent chills through the Chinese-Vietnamese community. In 1978-79, some 450,000 ethnic Chinese left Vietnam by boat as refugees (many officially encouraged and assisted) or were expelled across the land border with China.

The third-largest ethnic minority grouping, the central highland peoples commonly termed Degar or Montagnards (mountain people), comprise two main ethnolinguistic groups--Malayo-Polynesian and Mon-Khmer. About 30 groups of various cultures and dialects are spread over the highland territory.

Other minority groups include the Cham--remnants of the once-mighty Champa Kingdom, conquered by the Vietnamese in the 15th century--Hmong, and Thai.

Vietnamese is the official language of the country. It is a language pertaining to the Austroasiatic language family, a language family also including Khmer, Mon, etc. Vietnamese was spoken by 65.8 million people in Vietnam at the 1999 census, although this figure is probably inflated due to the fact that many Khmer Krom, who speak Khmer, were registered as ethnically Vietnamese people speaking Vietnamese. The real figure was probably closer to 59 million. Another 1.6 million Vietnamese speakers are found outside of Vietnam. Thus Vietnamese is the most spoken language of the Austroasiatic family, being spoken by three to four times more people than the second most spoken language of the family, Khmer. Both languages, however, are extremely different: under the influence of Chinese, Vietnamese has become a tonal language, while Khmer has remained non-tonal. Vietnamese was heavily influenced by Chinese and a great part of the Vietnamese vocabulary is Chinese, while Khmer was heavily influenced by Sanskrit and Pali and a great part of its vocabulary is now made up of Indian words, so that both languages look very dissimilar on the surface. Since the early 20th century, the Vietnamese have used a Romanized script introduced by the French. Previously, Chinese characters and an indigenous phonetic script were both used (see Vietnamese language).

See also: List of ethnic groups in Vietnam


Population: 82,689,518 (July 2004 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 29.4% (male 12,524,098; female 11,807,763)
15-64 years: 65% (male 26,475,156; female 27,239,543)
65 years and over: 5.6% (male 1,928,568; female 2,714,390)

(2004 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.3% (2004 est.)

Birth rate: 19.58 births/1,000 population (2004 est.)

Death rate: 6.14 deaths/1,000 population (2004 est.)

Net migration rate: -0.45 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2004 est.)

Missing image
Demographics of Vietnam, Data of FAO, year 2005 ; Number of inhabitants in thousands.

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2004 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 29.88 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 33.71 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 25.77 deaths/1,000 live births (2004 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 70.35 years
male: 67.86 years
female: 73.02 years (2004 est.)

Total fertility rate: 2.22 children born/woman (2004 est.)


noun: Vietnamese (singular and plural)
adjective: Vietnamese

Ethnic groups: Vietnamese 77%-86%, Khmer Krom 1.5%-10%, Chinese 3%, Muong, Tai, Meo, Man, Cham


Languages: Vietnamese (official), Khmer, Chinese, English, French, tribal languages (Tai-Kadai, Mon-Khmer, and Malayo-Polynesian)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 94% (2004 consensus)
male: 96.9%
female: 91.9% (2002)

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