With nearly a fifth of the world’s population between 15 and 24 years old, young people have the potential to stop corruption both as today’s citizens and tomorrow’s leaders. Where corruption seems like a way of life, promoting integrity among young people is critical to building a better tomorrow.
This is particularly true in the case of Vietnam, which scores just 2.7 out of 10 in our 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index, indicating a high level of perceived public sector corruption, and where more than 55 per cent of the population is under 30 years old.
The Vietnam Youth Integrity Survey, released by TI’s national contact Towards Transparency and the first such survey in the country, provides insight into the behaviours and experiences of young Vietnamese and the environment that influences them.
From principle to practice: Corruption in daily life
Most young people in Vietnam have a clear sense of right and wrong, but are unlikely to resist corruption, and are prepared to participate in it themselves, reports the survey.
For the great majority of young people surveyed, being honest is more important than being rich or increasing family income (95 and 91 per cent respectively). Encouragingly, 86 per cent of young people believe that they can play a role in fighting corruption.
Although young people say they understand integrity and the negative impact of corruption, when faced with corruption in their daily lives a significant number are ready to compromise their values:
- 35 per cent will bribe when it is financially advantageous, will solve a problem or when the bribe is small
- 45 per cent consider it acceptable to bribe their way to better hospital treatment
- 38 per cent are ready to pay a bribe to get into a good school or company.
Vietnamese young people are more likely to experience corruption than adults in five out of six daily life scenarios
Lessons for life
Earlier this year, the World Bank recognised the key role of young people, saying that anti-corruption should be incorporated into school curricula in developing countries. Vietnam is already taking steps in this direction. In December 2009, the government launched a project to incorporate anti-corruption curricula in schools and universities across the country.
The survey confirms the importance of education in encouraging people to take a stand against corruption: a full 41 per cent of young people with a low level of education said reporting corruption is “not their business”, compared to 15 per cent for those with a high level.
However, existing anti-corruption education does not go far enough. Almost two-thirds of young Vietnamese people who had received some form of anti-corruption education said it did not suffice. Anti-corruption learning must not only address values, but also behaviour, by employing concrete scenarios young people may face in daily life.
Empowering young people
Respondents to the survey cite television and radio, schools and family as having the greatest influence on their ethical views, underlining the importance of engaging young people beyond the classroom.
The most important sources in shaping Vietnamese young people’s views on integrity
Towards Transparency engages young people in the fight against corruption in many ways, such as through their anti-corruption manual, which explains the costs of corruption and suggests anti-corruption activities, as well as essay, drama and video competitions (read more about these on our blog).
Greater incentives have the potential to change the “not my business” attitude towards corruption. The survey calls for opportunities and support – in the form of scholarships, training courses or internships – to be offered to young people who demonstrate integrity.
A readiness to stand up to corruption only goes so far though. People also need to have faith in the system. The most cited reason for not reporting corruption among young people was that it brings no result (adults were more likely to say it is not their business). Stronger enforcement of existing anti-corruption laws and better mechanisms to support people reporting corruption, such as whistleblower protection measures, are needed.
Global efforts to engage young people
These challenges are not specific to Vietnam. We work around the world to engage, educate and support young people in the fight against corruption:
Transparency International Bangladesh engages nearly 4,000 high school and college students, who campaign for improved public services organise essay and debate competitions, street theatre, cartoon competitions and anti-corruption petitions.
Our anti-corruption legal advice centres help people young and old who face corruption in their daily life, including in the field of education.
In 2012, our Global Corruption Report will focus on education, including the role of ethics and anti-corruption education in the fight against corruption.
The Vietnam Youth Integrity Survey, the first of its kind in Vietnam, was conducted by Towards Transparency in collaboration with researchers from DIAL, the Center for Community Support Development Studies (CECODES) and Live&Learn, and with support from the Vietnam Fatherland Front. The survey was conducted by young volunteers who carried out face-to-face interviews about corruption and integrity with more than 1,000 people between 15-30 years of age.
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