Promoting gender equality among micro and small enterprises in the wood-processing industry

Findings and recommendations from Viet Nam

We have conducted a gender analysis of Dong Ky and Van Diem, two “wood villages” in the north of Viet Nam that produce furniture and other timber products. The analysis aimed to identify gaps between national gender commitments and the situation on the ground among the micro- and small-scale wood processors. It also characterised the main actors along the villages’ timber supply chains to identify opportunities for gender-related activities addressing these gaps.

Key messages

  • Roles assigned to men and women in the wood processing sector are strongly influenced by the socio-cultural context and norms and traditions. This is evident in wood villages where gender roles tend to mirror the typical characteristics of Vietnamese rural family structures and most wood processing workshops are family businesses owned by men.
  • Women in the sector earn lower wages than men because men play the main roles in key production activities, such as wood purchasing, sawmilling, carving and assembly. These higher paid activities are perceived as unsuitable for women. Business owners assign women to tasks seen as “lighter,” mostly in the finishing process of furniture making, such as sanding. These activities are paid much less. Women support financial management, marketing and sales, but decisions are often taken by men. Women’s contributions are not always visible and tend to be unrecognised.
  • Women’s opportunities for vocational training are limited, in turn restricting their employment opportunities. Men are encouraged to learn woodworking from childhood to develop a career as master craftsmen, foremen and wood processing workshop owners. Men generally have better opportunities to access production resources than women.
  • The Labour Code is not fully adhered to among household businesses in the wood processing sector, because it is common practice to hire workers without formal labour contracts. Women are disproportionately disadvantaged by the lack of adherence with labour provisions, because they cannot access any welfare benefits for example during pregnancy and child rearing.
Promoting gender equality among micro and small enterprises in the wood-processing industry