Poverty figures for the nation could rise when the Government approves new measurement criteria by the third quarter of 2015, labour officials said yesterday.
They said that the criteria, which will use a multi-dimensional approach, measure people's access to education, healthcare, insurance, social services, living conditions and other information.
Discussing the issue at a workshop held by the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, participants agreed that the new approach would show that in many areas, the poverty situation was much more serious than current figures suggest.
Under the new criteria, a household that lacks half its basic needs will be considered critically poor and those that cannot meet between one third and a half of their needs will be regarded as "multidimensional poor households."
The workshop heard that a pilot survey was conducted recently in three poor communes – Tri Quang in Lao Cai Province, Hoang Hai Commune in Thanh Hoa Province and Ngai Hung Commune in Tra Vinh Province – to measure poverty using the multi-dimensional approach.
The survey measured the poverty level at 22.31 per cent as against the income-based poverty of 17.32 per cent.
Pham Minh Thu of the Institute of Labour Science and Social Affairs said the survey was conducted by village heads or commune staff, some of whom have a limited understanding of things like different types of social insurance, so raising their awareness of related policies was crucial.
Deputy Labour Minister Nguyen Trong Dam said that the new way of measuring poverty will be vital for policy makers as they try to prioritise investments in infrastructure, health and education.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung approved a plan to reduce the poverty rate to below 5 per cent across the country and below 30 per cent in poor districts by 2015.
Even the per-capita income level used at present (2011-2015) to measure poverty is considered quite low, at VND400,000 per month or less in rural areas and VND500,000 or below in urban areas.