Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is forecast to become Asia’s second fastest-growing economy over the next five years, and this growth is already well underway. In the first six months of 2017 the economy expanded 7.76%; the city registered 18,000 enterprises with capital totaling US$10 billion; and Foreign Direct Investment registered at $2.15 billion – double the figure for the preceding year. Ho Chi Minh City Ranks 15th on Mastercard’s Global Destination Cities index, with foreign arrivals growing at 11.1% annually since 2009.

Thirty years ago Vietnam was one of the poorest nations on earth. In 1986 the average annual income was around US $100. This figure is now almost $2,000 – and double that in Ho Chi Minh City. The city is showing all the signs of transition into a modern, globally connected hub for higher-value businesses. Already the service sector is the biggest part to the economy, contributing 57.8%. International technology companies have located advanced production facilities in the city, including Samsung, Intel and Foxxcon. Intel’s general manager for Vietnam told the media in 2015, “We see the broader technology ecosystem in Vietnam steadily rising up the value chain.”

This steady ascent up the value chain has progressed hand-in-hand with increasing acceptance of LGBT+ people. In 2001, homosexuality was taken off Vietnam’s official list of mental illnesses, although state-run media still referred to it as a “social evil”. Since then a genuine dialogue has been taking place in Vietnam, and the journey towards greater acceptance for LGBT+ people is well begun:

In 2012, Vietnam’s Justice Minister became the first member of the government to speak out in favor of LGBT+ rights, saying it is “unacceptable to create social prejudice against the homosexual community”. The first Viet Pride parade took place – this has grown into an annual event attended by tens of thousands of people.

– In 2013, a campaign for Marriage Equality, Tôi Đồng Ý, reached millions of people and gained the backing of prominent Vietnamese celebrities and influencers.

– In 2014, a law was passed decriminalizing same-sex marriages, although the law does not offer recognition or protection to unions between people of the same sex.

– In 2015, sex reassignment surgery was legalized and the right to legal gender recognition for transgender people was introduced — a “small, but significant step toward recognizing transgender people’s rights”, according to Human Rights Watch.

– In 2016, Vietnam was one of the only Asian countries to vote in favour of a United Nations resolution on protection for LGBT+ people.

Local activists describe Ho Chi Minh City as “the paradise for LGBT+ in Vietnam”, and the city has more LGBT+ friendly bars than most other Asian cities. This sends a clear signal that it has a tolerant, dynamic cultural life. Young high-skilled workers want to move to diverse, progressive cities where they can fit in and do well – whether or not they are LGBT+. The growth of LGBT+ inclusion in Ho Chi Minh indicates that it is an open, inclusive city, rapidly becoming a globally integrated place to do business.

Continuing to appeal to a global talent-base of high skilled workers will be crucial if Ho Chi Minh City is to meet its projected rate of growth. In IT, for example, Vietnam will need 400,000 skilled workers by late 2018, but there are only 250,000 engineers in the field at present131. But many expect the growth trajectory to continue: Ho Chi Minh City ranks number two in JLL’s 2017 City Momentum Index. Progress on LGBT+ inclusion may continue to play a part in the changing fortunes of Ho Chi Minh City, which Forbes magazine has called “the quiet economic success story of Asia”.