Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



To the extent that research on Vietnamese adolescents has been conducted, it has been concerned with unprotected and unsanctioned sexual activity and its health consequences, namely abortion and sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV. The question we pose is whether this concern is warranted. Is the population community justified in focusing its attention on early sexual activity and HIV risk? Even if the sexual behavior of young people can be considered problematic, are there perhaps other aspects of young people’s lives that should give us greater pause? The paper reviews the literature on adolescent sexual behavior in Vietnam and analyzes data on premarital sex and reproductive behavior from a 1999 survey conducted in six provinces among nearly 1,500 adolescent boys and girls aged 15-22. Data on other aspects of young people’s lives are summarized, in particular schooling and work, in order to put the sexual activity data in perspective. We conclude that the lack of adequate employment opportunities may be more of a threat to adolescent reproductive health than risky sexual behaviors per se—a situation that effective economic policies can remedy.