Policy Leaps and Implementation Obstacles: Civil Service Reform in Vietnam, 1998-2009

This case study offers an account of civil service reform efforts in Vietnam between 1998 and 2009, which yielded substantial formal policy changes but produced only modest practical changes to Vietnam's public employment system. Before 1998, the Vietnamese civil service lacked standardized competitive recruitment and promotion procedures, offered salaries that did not cover the cost of living, provided insufficient and often irrelevant training, and included ministries that duplicated functions. By 2009, the Ministry of Home Affairs had standardized and then devolved recruitment and promotion exams to line ministries and provinces, doubled civil service wages while giving agencies autonomy to raise wages further, expanded the enrollment of the National Academy of Public Administration by a factor of 20, and merged six ministries. Nonetheless, government and donor officials reported that recruitment continued to be driven often by corruption, that even doubled salaries often did not cover the cost of living, that training was rarely relevant to civil servants' work, and that tasks continued to be duplicated in most of the merged ministries. In order to concentrate on human resource management reforms, this case study does not consider other aspects of the Public Administration Reform agenda, including, for example, the institution of so-called one-stop shops designed to simplify administrative procedures. Because public sector reform remained a sensitive topic in Vietnam in 2009, many interviewees asked that their names be withheld.

This teaching case is available for purchase here.

Authored by David Hausman.

Published by Innovations for Successful Societies.

Vietnam, PoliticsNYSEAN