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Implementing Ho Chi Minh’s thought on social security in the renovation period

(PTOJ) - Ho Chi Minh’s thought on social security is a system of comprehensive and profound views on policies to assist people in preventing, overcoming, and limiting risks in life. The article examines the fundamentals of Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts on social security and the application of his ideas in current practice.

Implementing social security in the renovation period - Source: vnanet.vn

1. Ho Chi Minh’s thought on social security

Throughout his revolutionary life, Ho Chi Minh was always striving for burning goals such as national independence, prosperous people, a strong nation, democracy, justice, civilization, and ensuring that all people enjoy freedom and warm, happy life. “I have only one desire, the ultimate desire, to make our country completely independent, our people completely free, so that all compatriots have access to food and education”(1); he once expressed the thought that underpins his social security philosophy. In today’s world, Ho Chi Minh’s ideas on social security are still relevant not only at the national level but also at the international level, as evidenced by the sustainable development goals outlined in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda: “Leave no one behind.” This message is a core and cross-cutting value in the United Nations Agenda for 2015-2030 (Agenda 2030), with 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). These are also the criteria to measure the level of fundamental improvement in the lives of the poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. Therefore, these goals are included in the development strategy, including the social security strategy of each country.

Today, the term “social security” is used in two senses: broad and narrow. In a broad sense, social security is the guarantee of human rights, allowing people to live freely, peacefully, and happily in a stable and developed society. In a narrow sense, social security is the assurance of a citizen’s minimum needs for food, clothing, lodging, travel, education, and medical treatment, particularly for the weak, vulnerable, and those harmed by natural disasters, enemy sabotage, diseases... Thus, Ho Chi Minh’s concept of social security encompasses both broad and narrow meanings: Humans are born with the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to pursue happiness. Regardless of who they are, people are entitled to the right to live in safe and guaranteed conditions. That can only be done when the country is independent, building a state of the people, by the people and for the people, creating all conditions for the people to be prosperous and happy. 

During his lifetime, Ho Chi Minh did not mention “social security”, but his views on social security were expressed very early and gradually improved in the process of awareness and action. In his work The Revolutionary Road (published in 1927), when discussing the role of the Association, he stated: “There are also unusual fees, such as saving room during a strike or helping other associations strike, or help people in the association who have lost their jobs, or do public works”(2).

Following the Eighth Central Conference (May 1941), he composed The poem on Viet Minh’s policies(3) to widely disseminate the Viet Minh Front’s guidelines and policies and entice people from all walks of life to participate. Viet Minh’s poem, written in hexagonal poetry, is simple to remember, memorize and spread among the mass. He mentioned policies for all subjects in society in his singing, expressing “inclusion” and “not leaving anyone out.”

Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts on social security were expressed more clearly and fully in the Viet Minh Program(4). The person mentioned the organization and implementation of the social insurance regime, the salary regime, the retirement regime, unemployment relief for workers, crop failure relief for farmers, and treatment of soldiers and soldiers’ families. Those who advocate building a society with guaranteed security for all social classes that is: “1. Laboring law enforcement, 8 hour working day. 2. Assisting families with multiple children. 3. Hiring childcare workers to look after the children. 4. Establishing projection houses, theater plays, clubs, and libraries to raise the intellectual level of the people. 5. Establishing more hospitals, maternity homes, and nursing homes”(5).

When the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was established (September 2, 1945), it was in the midst of many difficulties and challenges, with the goal of always striving for national independence, freedom, and happiness for the people. Because of enemies both inside and outside the country, most people were starving and lacking basic living needs. At the first meeting of the Provisional Government Council (September 3, 1945), Ho Chi Minh clearly stated the Government’s urgent tasks in order to ensure the lives of all classes of people, beginning with “We must make them live”. Ho Chi Minh suggested: Launching a campaign to increase production; against illiteracy; to re-educate the people’s spirit by practicing diligence, thrift, and integrity; abolishing body tax, market tax, boat tax... To solve the urgent situation, he suggested the Government “open a fundraiser. Every ten days, all of our compatriots fast for one meal. The rice saved will be collected and distributed to the poor”(6). The form of mutual assistance “good leaves cover torn leaves” - the nation’s tradition - was launched and practiced by him by example.

Ho Chi Minh’s opinion: “If the country is independent and the people do not enjoy freedom and happiness, then independence has no meaning”(7), “We can fight for freedom and independence, but the people keep starving to death. If you die of cold, then freedom and independence will not do anything. People only know the value of freedom and independence when the people are well fed and clothed.” Therefore, he asked the Party and the Government to “make every effort to make everyone happy”(8), stating: “We must ensure people to have food, clothing, accommodation, and education(9).

President Ho Chi Minh has issued many essential decrees in his 24 years as the country’s leader to ensure the salary, retirement, and allowance regimes when civil servants and public employees are dissatisfied. Sickness, maternity, a work accident, old age, or death all cause problems for the State. The author of Ordinance No. 29/SL (March 12, 1947) established the first legal framework for implementing the sickness, accident, and health care insurance regime. Ho Chi Minh’s interest in health and emphasis on preventive medicine paved the way for the future construction and development of universal health insurance in Vietnam.

When the need to protect workers’ rights became urgent in the 1960s, President Ho Chi Minh focused on directing the trade union organization. “The trade union has the duty to protect workers’ rights and assist the government in building the country,” he advised. The Vietnamese Labor Code will grant Vietnamese workers the right to organize freely and strike freely. The labor law will regulate working hours and wages, as well as protect women, the elderly, and children”(10). Trade unions must reaffirm their position and role in ensuring employee benefits such as social insurance, maternity leave, sickness, occupational accidents, occupational diseases, and retirement benefits.

In the sacred testament left to the entire Party and people, President Ho Chi Minh warned: “The Party needs to have a good plan for economic and cultural development, in order to constantly improve people’s lives”(11), in which “First and foremost is the works for the people”(12).

Thus, Ho Chi Minh’s goal on social security is always for the happy life of all people, to ensure people’s lives, from the essential needs for survival such as food, clothing, accommodation, to higher needs such as education. His thoughts contain values ahead with the spirit of sustainable development, covering “leaving no one behind” in the UN’s 2030 Agenda. To do that, President Ho Chi Minh said, it is necessary to build and develop a solid and comprehensive economy simultaneously, combining cultural development, education, and building a new people, have a new morality, a new suitable way of life. Obviously, this is President Ho Chi Minh’s thinking ahead of his time, and at the same time, it is also the ideological foundation and guideline for the planning and implementation of the social security policy of our Party and State today.

2. Implementing social security in the renovation period

In the renovation process, our Party and State have always been loyal to Ho Chi Minh’s thought and implemented his thought on social security. Ensuring social security is a consistent, cross-cutting policy becomes an indispensable part of the national strategy for sustainable development and socio-political stability. The 10th Party Congress (2006) stated: “Building a diversified social security system; strongly develop the system of social insurance and health insurance, moving towards universal health insurance. Diversify types of social relief”(13). At the 11th Party Congress, the Party determined that “Rapid development is associated with sustainable development, sustainable development is a requirement throughout the Strategy”(14). Therefore, ensuring social security is the basis for development while ensuring economic growth, socio-political stability, and environmental protection. 

Implementing the Resolution of the 11th National Party Congress, the 2013 Constitution (amended and supplemented) affirmed for the first time the right to social security as a fundamental right for the people. Article 34 of the 2013 Constitution stipulates: “Citizens have the right to social security,” and Article 59 stipulates: “The State creates equal opportunities for citizens to enjoy social welfare, develop a social security system”. According to Ho Chi Minh’s thought, this is an important legal basis contributing to implementing social security for people. Laws (newly introduced amended or supplemented) have been implemented to improve the effectiveness of the implementation of social security policies for the entire population, such as the Law on People with Disabilities (2010), and assistance for the disadvantaged access to social services; The Labor Law (amended in 2012) has additional provisions to strengthen the State’s support for disadvantaged workers in the market through policies on training, career guidance and job creation. The Employment Law (2013) expands opportunities for employees to participate in unemployment insurance (employees working in enterprises with labor contracts of three months or more are required to participate in unemployment insurance). The Law on Health Insurance (amended in 2013) expands the subjects supported by the State to participate in health insurance. The Law on Social Insurance (amended in 2014) expands the scope of participation in compulsory social insurance for employees working with a contract of one month or more; improve the voluntary social insurance regime towards flexibility and suitability with the employment and income conditions of workers in the informal sector; encourage informal sector workers to participate in social insurance.

In particular, the implementation of Resolution No. 15-NQ/TW, dated June 1, 2012, of the 11th Central Executive Committee “Some issues on social policy for the period 2012 - 2020” has made a significant contribution improving the life of people with meritorious services, ensuring that their families have a standard of living equal to or above-average living standard of the population in the area.

The 12th Party Congress in 2016 continued to affirm that ensuring social security is one of the key tasks in the new period. The Party’s policy at the 12th Party Congress is: “Creating opportunities for people to have jobs and improving their incomes; ensuring wages, fair income, living conditions and reproduction of labor power; mobilizing the best human resources to serve the construction and development of the country; focusing on creating jobs for redundant laborers from the agricultural sector due to the accumulation and concentration of land or the acquisition of land for industrial, urban development and public works; encouraging social investment to create more jobs and improve the quality of vocational education; building and perfecting the system of policies on salary and wages, basically overcoming irrationalities; adjusting vocational training policies, associating training with use; adjusting labor export policies reasonably; completing and implementing labor protection policies”(15). In 2019, to implement the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Vietnam developed a set of Statistical Indicators for Sustainable Development(16), which comprehensively reflects the characteristics of national socio-economic. The specific objectives in the Set of Indicators (including many indicators in the social field such as groups of indicators on hunger eradication, poverty reduction, equality) for ministries and branches to assess the project’s performance in implementing the criterion of “leaving no one behind”(17), demonstrating Vietnam’s efforts in implementing social security, clearly showing the humanistic nature of the socialist institution.

With the efforts of the whole Party and people, Vietnam has completed the Millennium Development Goals, which are highly appreciated by the world, such as hunger eradication and poverty reduction, care for the elderly, disabled, children, women, ethnic minorities in remote and isolated areas, take care of the health of the entire people. Also, they have succeeded in communication, advocacy, and creating conditions for people to prevent, reduce, and overcome risks in economic, social, and environmental life.

In 2020, Vietnam successfully achieved “dual goals”: disease prevention and control, people’s health protection, and socio-economic recovery and development. With the goal of “Leaving no one behind” in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, the promulgation of policies to support the poor, the vulnerable, and freelance workers are of great significance in protecting the health and safety of the poor, ensuring security and contribute to maintaining social stability. The Government of Vietnam has promptly issued a series of social security policies to support people, such as a support package worth 62 trillion VND, aimed at 20 million people in six target groups receiving support from the budget(18). Vietnam’s model of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic associated with the goal of “Leaving no one behind” is highly appreciated by the international community.

Looking back at the results of 5 years of implementing the Resolution of the 12th National Congress, our Party has commented that despite the Covid-19 pandemic and flood disaster in the last year of the term, Vietnam still achieved the 2016-2020 GDP growth rate of about 6%/year (in 2020 alone, GDP growth rate of was 2.91%, which was among the highest growth rates in the world)(19). The 13th Party Congress affirmed that, in the 35 years of renovation, Vietnam has: “Basically ensuring social security, paying attention to improving social welfare for the people; implement better policies towards people with meritorious services; continue to improve salary policy; expanding social insurance; health insurance rate reaches over 90%. The medical organization system continues to be consolidated. The scale, capacity, and quality of preventive medicine, medical examination and treatment, epidemic prevention and control, and people’s health care have developed, accessing many advanced technologies, and gaining many results. People’s living standards improved significantly; the rate of poor households according to the multidimensional poverty criteria decreased to less than 3%; social housing is concerned(20). This is an achievement of great significance in the general context of the world with many complicated developments.

The 13th Party Congress affirmed, in the coming year, Vietnam will continue to “Implementing well social policies, ensuring social security and welfare, human security, creating great changes in development management social progress and social justice; improving the quality of life and happiness of the people”(21). This has reaffirmed that social security and human security are identified as cross-cutting factors in national development. This goal will be realized with the participation of the whole political system and society under the Party’s leadership for the people’s happiness.

There are still many challenges ahead, but with the foundation of Ho Chi Minh’s thought and experience and leadership of the Party, Vietnam is firmly moving forward so that “by the middle of the twenty-first century, Vietnam will become a developed, socialist-oriented country”(22).

________________

Endnotes:

(1), (6), (7), (8), (9), (10) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol.4, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, pp.187, 7, 64, 64, 175, 477.

(2) Ho Chi Minh: op.cit., vol.2, p.335.

(3) “There are ten policies laid out, one is to benefit the country, the other is to benefit the people. All the land taxes and personal taxes are eliminated. Festivals, beliefs, newspapers, meetings, travel are upon people’s will. Farmers have fields and cattle; Food and clothing are ensured. Workers are ensured to work on an eight-hour shift. Upon unexpected accidents, the Government will provide healthcare. Trading activities are tax-free. Officials’ salaries are guaranteed. Soldiers who defend the country are treated with respect and love by the people. Ensure enough schools for children; the Government will provide schooling stipends to the poor and needy. Women and men are given equal rights. The disabled and the elderly are cared for by the Government. Children are also taken care of by the Government”.

(4) The work is assumed to have been written by Ho Chi Minh.

(5) Ho Chi Minh: op.cit., vol.3, p.632.

(11), (12) Ho Chi Minh: op.cit., vol.15, pp.622, 616.

(13) CPV: Complete Works of Party Documents, vol.56, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2006, p. 202.

(14) CPV: Document of the 11th National Party Congress, National Political Publishing House, 2011, Hanoi, p.98.

(15) CPV: Document of the 12th National Party Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2016, pp.136 - 137.

(16) The set of sustainable development indicators in Vietnam includes 158 indicators, reflecting 17 general goals and 115 specific goals of Vietnam; of which 55 indicators are related to children, 48 are related to population and development, 13 are related to labor, 70 are related to gender, 19 are related to environment and climate change and many other indicators related to people with disabilities.

(17) “Leaving no one behind - The core goal of the sustainable development goals in Vietnam”, https://vovworld.vn.

(18) Six groups of people are entitled to the social security support package due to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic: 1. People with meritorious services to the revolution (500,000 VND/month); 2. Poor and near-poor households according to the national poverty line (1 million VND/month); 3. Employees lost their jobs but are not eligible for unemployment benefits (1 million VND/month); 4. Individual business households with a turnover of less than 100 million VND a year who had to stop business (1 million VND/month); 5. Employees are temporarily suspended due to business difficulties due to Covid-19 (1.8 million VND/month); 6. Enterprises with employees who stop working for three months can borrow at 0% interest rate to pay salary (borrowing no more than 12 months) at the Bank for Social Policies, source: http://www.tuyengiao.vn: “The country joins hands for the poor, leaving no one behind”.

(19), (20), (21), (22) CPV: Document of the 13th National Party Congress, vol.I, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, pp.60-61, 65-66, 47, 112.

MA. NGUYEN TUYET HANH

Institute of Ho Chi Minh and Party leaders,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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