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The relationship between economic growth and culture creation in sustainable development in Vietnam

(LLCT) - In Vietnam, both the micro-approach to cultural development considering lifelong learning, educational innovation of cultural values, and standards, skills, and the macro-approach to cultural development focusing on developing cultural systems, cultural industries, and cultural markets, display a close and dialectical relationship between economic growth and culture creation in sustainable socio-economic development. Creating a culture in sustainable development in Vietnam goes in the direction toward constructing a learning society, innovating education at the micro level and developing the cultural system, cultural industry, and the cultural market at macro level.

The classics of Marxism - Leninism always emphasize that, after all, material determines spirit. This view does not deny the objective role and driving force of culture for the economy but implies a profoundly dialectical materialistic idea that cultural leadership and management should be developed based on the economy as material foundation, while economic growth management should be based on the spiritual foundation which is culture. The problem is whether it is necessary to have a scientific approach and propose practical solutions to effectively direct and manage the relationship between economic growth and culture creation to meet the requirements of a country’s sustainable development in the context of global integration. There are two approaches to determining this relationship as follows:

1. The micro-approach: lifelong learning and education about the system of values, standards, and skills for employees

According to this approach, culture can be considered as a system of values, standards, skills, and habits that are formed and expressed in each human behavior, activity, and social relationship. Culture is not economic but can create goals and motivations to promote, orient, maintain, and adjust human behavior and activities in the economic field. Culture creates cultural capital for people to convert into other types of capital including economic capital, goods, and products. According to the micro approach, cultural economic behavior ensuring economic growth meets the requirements of sustainable development. Culture creation is the development of culture, values, norms, positive habits, progress, and civilization, capable of promoting the behaviors and activities that ensure economic growth and contribute to sustainable development. Among these, the most prominent characteristics are the core values such as patriotism, national spirit, compassion, love for people, community spirit, sophistication, and flexibility. There are studies from this perspective that show only attaching importance to the motivation of success, the desire for legal prosperity, upholding of law and democracy, science, and technology is enough to improve labor productivity and quality of life(1). At the same time, culture creation or development is the process of elimination, reduction, or simply the process of “destruction” negative values, norms, habits that hinder and inhibit economic growth. Bad habits need to be overcome for economic growth, such as passivity, conservatism, stagnant, low self-esteem, “egalitarianism”, reliance, narrow-mindedness, selfishness, extravagance, etc..

Based on the cultural micro-approach, two mechanisms can be found to address the relationship between economic growth and culture creation in sustainable development. According to the first mechanism, economic growth is the result and the practical activity of testing the good and the bad, the right and the wrong of each value system, standards, and the habit constitutes the culture of everyone, each subject, and each party participating in the economic process, especially in the economic market.

According to the second mechanism, economic growth requires promoting, forming, developing appropriate qualities and capacities to create a driving force for sustainable development. The elimination and destruction of bad and negative values, norms and habits are important and necessary, but not the top priority in leadership, managing the relationship between economic growth and culture creation. The strategic solution is to give priority to building a culture with national, humane, democratic, and scientific characters, imbued with patriotism, compassion, gratitude, honesty, solidarity, hardworking, and creativity. This strategy is implemented simultaneously in the process of building a “learning society” in which everyone actively and proactively practices “lifelong learning” and fundamentally and comprehensively renovates education and training.

The purpose of prioritizing lifelong learning is that each person continuously learns “immediately and always” anywhere at any time with the support of modern communication technology to create new values, standards, and habits suitable for economic growth and sustainable development. For example, employees, especially leaders and managers in all fields of production and business today need to learn new qualities such as openness, tolerance, transparency, accountability, and creativity. Even the “old” cultural characteristics such as “tolerance” and “creativity” still have new content and new meaning. For example, “tolerance” means respecting, listening, sharing, and accepting differences, so that no one is left behind or left outside, ensuring everyone has equal opportunities to participate in the process of economic growth and sustainable development. “Creativity” brings a new content that is based on modern science and technology to constantly research, deploy, and innovate both products and methods of production, including inputs, processes, outputs, and human operational needs.

In the process of lifelong learning, people can learn step by step to realize that, from work to feed people, work that appropriately assigned labor to create high productivity, to work with high scientific and technological intelligence creates outstanding economic growth while creative labor can meet and develop high human needs.

Similarly, through lifelong learning, people can develop a system of values of employment, from a stable job for stable income, to a high-quality job for high income and towards having creative jobs for economic growth and beyond is working for happiness.

For the young generation, the fundamental and comprehensive renovation of education and training aims to form and develop the value system, cultural norms, and habits necessary for economic growth and sustainable development. The general education program issued in 2018 is oriented to form and develop in students 5 qualities and 10 core competencies necessary for the Vietnamese people in the 21st century. The five qualities are patriotism, responsibility, honesty, hard work, and compassion. The ten core competencies are autonomy, self-learning, physical capacity, aesthetic capacity, information technology, science, mathematics, linguistic, problem solving and creativity, communication and cooperation capacity. In which, information technology capability directly meets the requirements of the digital economy in the context of the Industrial Revolution 4.0.

2. The macro-approach: developing the cultural system, the cultural industry, and the cultural market

Cultural system development. According to the macro-level systematic approach, culture is a system and together with other systems such as economics, politics, and law make up society. Cultural development is the development of a cultural system in relation to other systems and the entire social system. As for the cultural system, it is necessary to lead and manage the comprehensive development of sub-systems, divisions, and cultural dimensions, including economic culture, political culture, socio-culture, artistic culture, cultural beliefs, cultural education, cultural science, cultural technology, cultural environment, and other cultural factors. Each culture sub-system is made up of different parts and elements, for example, cultural technology includes agricultural technology culture, industrial technology culture, service technology culture, and other technological cultural factors. The development of the cultural system is targeted by the political system, supported and promoted by other systems, especially the market economy system and the modern science and technology system. Due to the systematization that culture interacts, influences, penetrates and develops in other systems, creating the cultural identity of each system, each element of society, and the whole society, for example, the Vietnamese economic system has a Vietnamese cultural identity and the whole Vietnamese society has Vietnamese cultural identity. This requires attention to systematic leadership, management, and cultural creativity in harmony with economic growth for the sustainable development of the country.

Development of cultural industry. A specific manifestation of the cultural construction following the macro-approach on the national and international scale is to promote the construction and development of “cultural industry” and associated with “cultural economy”, “creative industry”, “creative economy”. In the world, the cultural industry is well developed(2), for example in the United States, the output value of the cultural and arts industries is estimated at nearly 878 billion USD, accounting for 4.5% of the GDP of the country in 2017. With such value, the cultural and artistic industries contribute more to the economy than the construction, transportation and logistics, tourism, mining, utilities, and agriculture industries. The cultural and arts industries created 5.1 million jobs, accounting for 3.4% of the total jobs with an estimated total public remuneration of 405 billion USD. This field has a high concentration of high-quality workforce with 63% of the workers (over 25 years old) having bachelor and postgraduate degrees, nearly double the national average of 36%. This industry attracts 54% of adults participating in enjoying cultural and artistic activities and 54% of adults participating in cultural and artistic production, creation, and performance. On the international market, in 2017, the export turnover of culture and arts of the US reached nearly 73 billion USD, the import was nearly 43 billion USD and the trade surplus was nearly 30 billion USD. In Canada, in 2002, the cultural industry contributed 40 billion USD to GDP, nearly twice as much as agriculture and forestry with 21 billion USD, and created nearly 600 thousand jobs, accounting for 3.6% of the total employment of this country. Another example in Asia shows that cultural industries both directly generate huge revenues and indirectly increase the revenues of other economic sectors including exports of electronics, garments, and cosmetic products. Particularly, the Korean music industry, famously known as K-pop, is estimated that for every 100 USD of Korean music consumed abroad, an additional 395 USD is earned from the export of electronics including cell phones and televisions. A secret of K-pop’s success is the continuous exploration, research, and application of digital technologies in training, coaching, marketing, performing, and connecting with the public and fans all over the world.

However, there are different definitions and classifications of cultural industries. For example, in the US, arts and culture industries consist of 11 sub-industries: (i) advertising, (ii) architecture, (iii) arts schools and services, (iv)design, (v) cinema, (vi) museums, zoos, (vii) music, (viii) performing arts, (ix) publishing, (x) television, (xi) visual arts. While UNESCO classifies the cultural industry into two groups of sub-industries. The core group of cultural industries includes 11 sectors: (i) museums, exhibitions, libraries, (ii) performing arts, (iii) festivals, (iv) visual arts, crafts fine arts, (v) design, (vi) publishing, (vii) television, radio, (viii) film, video, (ix) photography, (xi) interactive media. The expansion group of cultural industries includes 7 sectors: (i) musical instruments, (ii) audio equipment, (iii) architecture, (iv) advertising, (v) printing equipment, (vi) software, (vii) audio-visual hardware.

In Vietnam, the task of developing the cultural industry(3) in parallel with building and perfecting the cultural market was officially set on the national level in 2014. However social and economic statistics do not separate the cultural and arts industries. The Statistical Yearbook still mainly collects, processes and provides data on 20 economic sectors, of which only two branches in the “cultural economy” are “Information and communication” and “Arts, entertainment, and recreation”(4). According to statistics, the GDP of the “Information and communication” industry increased by nearly 3.8 times from 10 trillion VND to 37.8 trillion VND in the period from 2005 to 2018. Meanwhile, the GDP contribution of “Arts, entertainment, and creation” increased rapidly by 5.1 times from 6.3 trillion to 32.4 trillion VND. However, the GDP of the country increased at a faster rate of 6.1 times in the same period. Therefore, the contribution of both “Information and communication” and “Arts, entertainment, and recreation” to Vietnam’s GDP decreased from 1.78% (1.09% + 0.69%) in 2005 to 1.26% in 2017 (Figure 1). The reality raises the need of finding solutions to speeding up cultural development in general and increasing the growth rate of the cultural economy to the level of economic growth in the coming time.

The cultural market. In practice, with a cultural economy and cultural industry, a cultural market inevitably emerges, and a developed cultural market can stimulate and promote economic growth, industrial culture, and creative industry. One of the most obvious manifestations of a cultural market that is being formed and developed in Vietnam is the import-export market. Statistics show that the value of imports and exports of goods in the “Information and communication” and “Arts, entertainment, and recreation” sectors are insignificant but develop in two opposite trends. The export value of “Information and communication” increased 2.5 times from 42.5 million USD to 107 million USD in the period from 2010 to 2018. At the same time, the import value of this sector increased slowly (17%) from 138.7 million USD to 162.5 million USD. As a result, Vietnam’s trade deficit of “Information and communication” reduced half from 96.2 million USD to 55.5 million USD during this period. The export and import market for “Arts, entertainment, and recreation” thrived in the direction of trade surplus: the export value was small but rapidly increased (3.4 times) from 0.8 million USD to 2.7 million USD, while import value increased more slowly (3 times) from 0.6 million USD to 1.8 million USD. Therefore, the trade surplus increased rapidly (4.5 times) from USD 0.2 million to USD 0.9 million.

3. Solutions to increase cultural investment with the requirements of sustainable development

From the above theoretical and practical analysis, it is necessary to implement solutions for increasing investment in cultural development to ensure meeting the requirements of sustainable development on national, local, individual levels. The implementation of this solution requires renewal in the mindset of “cultural expenditure” as “cultural investment”, development investment, and spending policy reform to ensure a sharp increase in cultural investment corresponding to an increase in economic growth. Theoretically, there could be a variety of options for investment in cultural development to accommodate multiple levels of economic growth. However, in practice, the choice of how to increase investment in cultural development strongly or weakly corresponding to the speed of economic growth leads to one of four models of development, of which, there is only one model ensuring sustainable development (Table 1).

State budget spending on culture and solutions to increase investment in cultural development on a national scale. In the structure of the total state budget expenditure, the level of spending on “economic cause, environmental protection” referred to as “economic expenditure” increased by 9.3 times from 11.8 trillion VND in 2005 to 109.2 trillion VND in 2017. At the same time, the level of spending on “Culture and information, broadcasting and television, news media, sport activities” referred to as “cultural expenditure” increased by 7.1 times from 2.1 trillion to 14.9 trillion VND. The proportion of cultural expenditure increased by 27.5% from 0.8% to 1.02%, while the proportion of economic expenditure increased by 66.4% from 4.49% to 7.47% in the period 2005 - 2017. Because cultural expenditure increased slowly while economic expenditure increased rapidly, the disparity, properly named as the disparity between the proportion of cultural expenditure and the proportion of economic expenditure, did not decrease but increased from 5.6 times to 7.3 times in the same period. This means that in 2005, for every 1 VND of state budget spending on culture, there would be 5.6 VND of economic spending, and by 2017, for every 1 VND spent on culture, there was 7.3 VND spent on the economy (Figure 2). To reduce the inequality towards sustainable development, a clear priority should be given to increasing investment in cultural development on a par with economic growth, specifically increasing cultural expenditurecorresponding with the increase in economic spending.

Expenditure on culture and solutions to increase investment in cultural development in the locality. Models of local development can be viewed through analyzing the statistics of budget expenditure on cultural and economic causes in four cases, including two provinces in the highest income group, one in the middle-income group, and one locality in the lowest income group(5). In a prosperous locality, for example, Ho Chi Minh City with the second-highest income per capita in the country (6.2 million VND/month, only after Binh Duong with 6.8 million VND/month), the budget for “Culture and information, broadcasting and television, news media, sports activities”, for short, culture expenditure increased by nearly 7% from 969 billion VND to over 1 trillion VND from 2015 to 2018. However, the proportion of cultural expenditure in total budget expenditure decreased from nearly 3.3% to 2.8%. Meanwhile, the budget for economic business, in short, is economic expenditure, increased rapidly by over 50% from 3.7 trillion to 5.6 trillion VND and correspondingly the proportion increased from 12% to 15%. The gap between economic expenditure and cultural expenditure increased rapidly from 3.8 times to nearly 5.4 times in the same period.

Similarly, in Hanoi with the third highest per capita income in the country (6.1 million VND/month), cultural spending increased by nearly 7% from 1.5 trillion VND in 2015 to 1.6 trillion in 2018. At the same time, economic spending increased rapidly at a rate of nearly 32% from 6.6 trillion VND to 8.6 trillion VND. However, the proportion of cultural expenditure decreased from 4.2% to 3.7%, while the proportion of economic expenditure increased from 18.5% to 19.9%. The gap between economic expenditure and cultural expenditure increased from 4.4 times to 5.4 times. This means that in 2015, for every 1 VND of cultural expenditure, there would be 4.4 VND spending for the economy and in 2018 for every 1 VND for culture, there would be 5.4 VND for the economy.

In locality with a medium standard of living, for example, Dak Nong province with a per capita income in 2018 of 3.03 million/month, ranking 29th from the bottom up, economic growth and cultural development trend are different comparing with above localities. Dak Nong’s cultural expenditure increased rapidly by 40% from 87.9 billion VND to 123.1 billion VND and the corresponding proportion increased from 2.4% to 2.9% in 2015-2018. Meanwhile, economic expenditure increased slowly at nearly 20% from 356 billion VND to 426 billion VND, while the proportion of economic expenditure increased slightly from 9.8% to over 10% in the same period. Because the increase in cultural expenditure is higher than the increase in economic expenditure, the expenditure gap between economy and culture decreased from 4.1 times to 3.5 times, which means that in Dak Nong for every 1 VND spent on culture, there would be 3.5 VND for economic spending.

In low-income localities, the economic and cultural relationship may be more complicated by the impact of multidimensional poverty. For example, Lai Chau province with an average income per capita of 1.49 million VND/month, ranked the third lowest in the country (higher than Son La with 1.48 million VND and Dien Bien with 1.47 million VND), there is a decrease in budget expenditure on socio-economic development, of which spending on culture has decreased by more than half (57%) from 115 billion in 2015 to 49 billion in 2018, and economic expenditure decreased slightly (nearly 8%) from 604 billion to 558 billion VND. Correspondingly, the proportion of cultural expenditure decreased by more than half from nearly 2.5% to 1.1% and the proportion of economic expenditure decreased by 12.9% to 12.1%. The gap between economic expenditure and cultural expenditure increased from 5.3 times to nearly 11.4 times, which means that for every 1 VND of cultural expenditure, there would be 5.3 VND economic spending and in 2018 it is estimated to be 1 VND spending on culture and 11.4 VND on economic spending correspondingly. From the above situation of budget spending on culture and economy, the solution for high-income localities is to strongly increase cultural expenditure in proportion to economic growth. For low-income localities, it is necessary to have strong solutions for investments in economic growth, reduce poverty, and cultural development. For middle-income localities, the solution is to maintain the speed of cultural development investment and at the same time seek to increase the economic growth rate to avoid the middle-income trap.

Expenditure on culture and cultural investment solutions of individuals and households. In the period from 2006 to 2018, total living spending per capita of households increased 5.1 times from 460,400 VND/person/month to 2,366,600 VND/person/month(6) (Table 2). In which, spending on “culture, sports, and entertainment”, briefly referred to as “cultural expenditure” per capita of Vietnamese households, increased by 5.2 times from 6,900 VND/month to 36,000 VND/month. For the group of 20% of the lowest-income households (the 1st quintile), there is an increase of 3.5 times from 0.4 thousand VND to 1.4 thousand VND. For the group of 20% of the highest-income households (the 5th quintile), the growth rate was nearly 4.8 times from 26,500 thousand VND to 126,300 VND. As a result, the cultural expenditure inequality between the rich and the poor has increased dramatically, from over 66 times to over 90 times during the same period. This means that in 2018, the poor spend 1 VND on art, sports, and entertainment, the rich spend more than 90 VND. On average, a low-income person spends 1,400 VND/month, while a high-income person spends 126,300 VND/month on culture.

From 2006 to 2018, the living standards in Vietnam have improved. Per capita income increased by 3.9 times from nearly 1 million VND/month to nearly 3.9 million VND/month. However, the share of cultural expenditure in the total living expenditure of the Vietnamese people remained at 1.5%. Households with different income levels spend on culture distinctly. The share of cultural expenditure in the total living expenditure of the low-income group (the 1st quintile) reduced half from 0.2% to 0.1%, but the proportion of cultural expenditure of the high-income group (the 5th quintile) increased slightly from 2.9% to 3% during the same period. For the remaining 60% of the remaining households in the upper-middle, middle, and lower-m income groups, the share of cultural expenditure increases. In which, the cultural expenditure of the lower-middle-income group grew with the highest rate of 2.5 times from 0.2% to 0.5% (Figure 3).

Nowadays, Vietnamese people’s lives have been improved with indicators such as income and expenditure at national, local, individual and household levels increasing in the amount of money at current prices. The dialectical relationship between economic growth and cultural development depends a lot on solutions to building a learning society, and to innovating education in a micro-approach. At the same time, it is necessary to find solutions to develop the cultural system, cultural industry, and cultural market at the macro level. In fact, the level of investment in cultural development shown at the level of cultural expenditure has not kept pace with the economic growth. Therefore, it is crucial to choose specific solutions suitable to specific socio-economic conditions. For poor localities, it may be necessary to give priority to economic growth, poverty reduction, and incremental investment in cultural development. Meanwhile, for the localities that escaping poverty, priority should be given to both economic growth and cultural development investment. For high economic growth localities, it is possible to prioritize increasing investment in cultural development to ensure sustainable development.



(1) Ronald Inglehart: Modernization and post-modernization, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2008.

(2) National Endowment for the Arts, The U.S. Arts Economy (1998-2017): A National Summary Report, https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/summaryreport2AccessFix.pdf (accessedon July 7, 2020).

(3) CPV: Resolution No. 33-NQ/TW dated June 9, 2014, on Creation and development of Vietnamese culture and people to meet the requirements of national sustainable development.

(4) General Statistics Office of Vietnam (2020): Statistics from 2005 to 2017, htps://www.gso.gov.vn/default.aspx?tabid=715.

(5) General Statistics Office of Vietnam: General Statistics Office: Socio-economic data of 63 provinces and cities, Statistical Publishing House, Hanoi, 2020.


(6) General Statistics Office of Vietnam: Results of the survey on Vietnam’s living standards in 2018, Statistical Publishing House, Hanoi, 2020.

Prof., Dr. LeNgocHung

University of Education, Hanoi National University

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