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Overview

Rapid assessments in three residential areas of Hanoi, Haiphong and Ho Chi Minh city in
May, 2011 were implemented to discover response measures and the influence of price
increases on urban groups, including the poor (people who receive social protection),
migrants, local self-employed labourers, pensioners, civil servants and medium-income
workers.
The average retail price of most essential commodities and services in surveyed sites
increased in the first four months of 2011, especially after the beginning of Lunar New
Year (February). Commodities with significant price increases included foods and
foodstuffs; electricity, petrol, gas, and rental apartments. However, the price of several
commodities in the first two weeks of May, 2011 leveled off, and in some cases even
slightly decreased (for some types of meat and vegetables) compared to those in April,
2011. The minimum wage was adjusted upwards in May but the price of most essential
foods and foodstuffs did not increase, which could be explained by sharp price increases
in previous months. High prices led to demand contraction, so shops tended to remain
and decrease their price.
In general, social groups surveyed expressed the most concern about price increases of
food and foodstuffs (meat, fish, rice, and other foodstuffs) and fuels (electricity, petrol,
gas). Poor, low and fixed income groups (poor households, workers, and pensioners)
paid more attention to price increases of food and foodstuffs for minimum needs (meat,
fish, rice, vegetable, other foods). The poor and old people covered by social protection
policies were also concerned about the expense of medicine and health services. Medium
and moderately good income groups or rising income group (in relation with price
increases) -self-employed and civil servants- cared especially about the price increases of
gasoline, electricity and gas. Rising accommodation costs are migrant-specific concern.
Common coping strategies applied by social groups to cope with price increases include
decreasing electricity use, decreasing personal consumption, rationing, buying cheaper
foods, decreasing gas consumption, and decreasing monthly savings among others. Of
these, “decreasing electricity use” and “decreasing personal expenditure” were the two
top priorities applied. Many households also chose to cook at home and eat out less to
reduce their expenses.
Price increases from early 2011 have decreased purchasing power, quality of life and
exacerbated inherent difficulties of poor, low and fixed income groups. Among social
groups surveyed in urban areas, the poor, people receiving social security and migrant
workers suffered the most.
For the poor, price increases had a negative influence on their nutrition and health and
their access to basic services (education, health care). Migrants reported that price hikes
made their lives more difficult due to higher costs. Price increases were also reported to
have made labour relations tenser and negatively impact on the occupation stability of
migrant workers. Price increases also exacerbated the lack of social capital situation of
both local poor people and migrants.
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Extremely effects such as “stopping children from schooling”, “selling properties” or
“increasing borrowings for daily expenditure,” did not appear in all surveyed groups.
Credit activities for the poor in localities have not been badly affected. The affect (of price
increases) on gender relations, could only be seen through a re-allocation of work in the
family (women had to take bigger responsibility for family meals, some women in poor
households had to find extra work to supplement their incomes). Changes in job
structures due to price increases are not yet apparent in the same way as are the effects of
the Global Financial Crisis in 2009. The main concern of interviewees was how to get a job
with a higher income so as to mitigate against the rise in prices.

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