Subsistence and Commercial Activities . Vietnam is a poor country, with an annual per capita income of less than U.S. $200. Agriculture, the dominant sector of the economy, emphasizes the cultivation of wet rice, but the production of secondary food crops (maize, yams, manioc, beans) and industrial crops (rubber, tea, coffee, pineapple, citrus fruits, sugar, tobacco, jute) has increased in recent decades. Despite efforts to mechanize agriculture, water buffalo and human beings still do most of the farm work. Pigs, chickens, ducks, cattle, and fish ponds are common. Many coastal villages specialize in fishing. Home gardens play an important role in the household economy.
Industrial Arts. Small-scale food processing, charcoal making, and handicrafts (furniture, lacquerware, pottery, silk, baskets) play an important economic role. Sewing machines are widespread. Mining and metalworking are important in the north. Some industries (cernent, textiles, chemicals, steel) are well established, but efforts to build heavy industry have been impeded by war and a weak economic base.
Trade. While small shops, stalls, street peddlers, and market squares are common, and Vietnamese women are especially active in petty retail and trade, until recently ethnic Chinese dominated many wholesale activities. Government efforts to socialize the economy in 1978 closed tens of thousands of small private businesses that were replaced by a state trading network, but some private enterprise has now returned.
Division of Labor. Traditionally women have had charge of domestic affairs, including finances. Men dominated public affairs, the professions, and agricultural activity. Extended warfare and government regulations have given women greater opportunities in all areas, but much de facto division of labor by gender persists.
Land Tenure. The ratio of people to arable land is one of the most unfavorable in the world for an agricultural country. Most landholdings have been collectivized under Communist rule. Each household in a collective is permitted to have some land for its own use; private plots (about 5 percent of the land area) typically produce from 10 to 20 percent or more of the total yield.