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Qualitative Research on the Social and Cultural Factors Underlying the Skewed Sex Ratio at Birth in Viet Nam



Viet Nam has recently experienced an unusually rapid rise in the sex ratio at birth (SRB). While in 2000 the SRB was still at normal levels and was estimated to be 106.2 male births per 100 female births, it increased to 112.1 in 2008, and was 110.6 according to the 2009 Census. If the sex ratio imbalance continues to increase after 2010, it will bring about significant demographic and social consequences in long term.

  • Time: From September 2010
  • Sponsored by: UNFPA

 Objectives of the research

The overall objective of this research is to provide substantive evidence for policy dialogue, to provide recommendations for developing new and refine the existing interventions and policies to address the skewed SRB in Viet Nam.

To achieve this objective, the research will identify and document the social and cultural factors influencing the imbalanced sex ratio at birth in Viet Nam. Specifically, the research will:

1)    examine the causes for son preference in relation to an imbalanced sex ratio at birth in Viet Nam;

2)    document and analyse the decision making process, choice, and utilization of technology for sex selection;

3)    examine market factors which may facilitate the use of sex selection technology

4)    analyse the impact of the legal framework on the skewed SRB and

5)    Provide recommendations on policy development, and/or enforcement  and intervention programs

Research questions

1)    What social,  cultural  and political factors are influencing son preference?

2)    How does decision-making around sex selection take place?

3)    How does the sex selection procedure takes place?

4)    Whether or not commodification of sex screening technology exits?

5)    How Government policies influence sex ratio at birth?


Methods of data collection:

An in-depth qualitative research will be used to answer the aboved listed questions. Particularly, rapid and participatory methodology will be used in the field research. Applied tools shall be used, including interviews with key informants, in-depth interviews (I-I), focus group discussions (FGD), observation and consultation meetings. The study will stress the rural/urban differences of SRB values, as well as the specific socio-economic and income generation situations of  households  (e.g. well-off households, households relying on son for income generation activities such as fishing/agriculture).

A set of research instruments including guideline for focus group discussion and question guides for in-depth interview with various target populations will be developed by the research team and in consultation with UNFPA.

Target groups

Collected information will be obtained from key stakeholders and target groups as listed below:

i)      Married women and men

ii)     Parents-in-law

iii)    Key informants from the community (commune population officer, health worker, cultural and religious leaders etc)

iv)   Service providers, importers/suppliers of sex screening technology

v)    Government representatives

 Research locations.:

 The selection of the locations and interviewees will be based on the preliminary findings of the 2009 Population Census data on SRB and consultation with UNFPA and GOPFP. Tentatively four sites will be selected: Hanoi, Hung Yen, Quang Ngai and Can Tho.  Interviews will  be carried out in both urban and rural areas of three  provinces. In Hanoi, the study will take place in urban area.


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