Labouring under false assumptions? Exploring the rifts between international standards and cultural values in Vietnam's Labour Code reform

Vietnam is currently undertaking a comprehensive reform of the 2012 Labour Code, adopted with donor support through the ILO. After five years’ implementation, ILO has funded internal analyses of compliance with the core international labour standards underpinning ILO’s 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (which include gender equality) and it is again supporting review of the Code’s industrial relations provisions.  In 2017-18, the Australian Government, through the Investing in Women program and with UN Women, has provided technical assistance on gender dimensions of the Labour Code to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA). The removal of gender barriers to women’s economic participation will not only align the Code with Vietnam’s own equality legislation and international labour obligations, but will also provide an enabling environment for a modern, gender equitable world of work. Three areas discussed in this case study are: equalisation of the retirement age between men and women; removal of stereotyped references to women as physically weaker and as having primary responsibility for family and home; and questioning the basis for paid menstrual leave.