Vietnam has steadily grown as a key manufacturing hub in Southeast Asia, with its manufacturing industry significantly contributing to the nation’s economy, particularly in terms of GDP and exports. 

A notable trend in recent years is the shift of global manufacturers toward Vietnam, driven by cost-effectiveness, especially when compared to China, where rising labor and operational costs are of concern. The evolving global trade dynamics, marked by trade wars and tariffs, further accentuate Vietnam’s appeal as a cost-effective manufacturing destination. 

The pandemic has underscored the importance of having diversified supply chains, and Vietnam’s growing manufacturing capabilities present a compelling proposition for global businesses.

This article will explore the historical evolution, current state, and various initiatives driving the growth of Vietnamese manufacturing, alongside the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Historical Background

In the pre-reform era, Vietnam’s economy was primarily agrarian, with limited industrialization. The economic landscape began changing with the introduction of the Doi Moi policy in the late 1980s, aiming to transition Vietnam into a free market economy. This reform opened up the market, encouraging private and foreign investments. 

Attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) was a crucial aspect of Doi Moi, setting the stage for the growth of its manufacturing sector. The influx of FDI, driven by Vietnam’s low labor costs and strategic location, significantly contributed to the country’s industrial output, marking the beginning of its journey toward becoming a key manufacturing hub in Southeast Asia.

The Vietnam Free Trade Agreement with various nations further bolstered its appeal to foreign investors.

Current State of Vietnam’s Manufacturing Sector

Vietnam’s manufacturing sector has become a cornerstone of its economy, driven by several key industries. Among them, textiles and apparel, electronics manufacturing, machinery, and footwear are leading the way. Each of these industries contributes to Vietnam’s industrial output and gross domestic product (GDP).

The manufacturing capacity and production in the Southeast Asian country have been on an upward trajectory. A closer look at the growth rate, industrial output, and contribution to GDP reveals a robust manufacturing sector. The labor force plays a significant role in this growth, with competitive labor costs compared to other countries, making Vietnam an attractive destination for manufacturing.

Government support and policies have been instrumental in promoting manufacturing in Vietnam. Investment incentives, free trade agreements, and infrastructure development projects create a conducive environment for manufacturing, especially in urban centers like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Vietnam’s manufacturing sector is a testament to the country’s economic resilience and its ability to adapt to global manufacturing.

Factors Driving Vietnam’s Manufacturing Growth

Vietnam’s manufacturing sector has been propelled by several factors.

Cost Advantages

One of the primary drivers of manufacturing growth in Vietnam is the cost advantage the country offers. 

Low labor costs compared to other countries in the region, such as China, make Vietnam an attractive destination for manufacturing operations. 

On average, labor costs in Vietnam are significantly lower than those in China and Thailand​​. More specifically, Vietnam’s labor costs are reported to be half as much as China’s, with the hourly labor cost in Vietnam being $2.99 compared to China’s $6.50.

Additionally, Vietnam has attracted a substantial inflow of FDI due to its lower labor costs, improved infrastructure, and preferential tax treatment​.

Strategic Location

Vietnam’s geographical location is a major asset for its manufacturing growth. 

Being close to big markets in Asia, especially Chinese markets, makes it easier for goods to be shipped and for companies to do business with a large customer base nearby. Its location also puts it on important shipping routes, which is great for moving goods around easily.

Moreover, being next to China helps Vietnam a lot. It’s easy to get necessary raw materials and equipment across the border, which helps keep operations running smoothly. This location advantage — along with investments in things like roads and ports, and trade agreements with other countries — has helped Vietnam move from a struggling economy to becoming a go-to place for manufacturing in Asia.

Additionally, Vietnam’s closeness to other countries like Japan and South Korea has led to partnerships that further boost its growth in manufacturing. Being in a good neighborhood, so to speak, helps Vietnam build strong connections that are beneficial for its manufacturing sector.

Political Stability and Favorable Business Environment

Vietnam’s political scene has been stable, and this stability has made it easier for businesses, especially in the manufacturing sector, to operate and grow. 

The Vietnamese government has rolled out several reforms and policies to make doing business simpler. For instance, they’ve worked to cut down on the red tape that often slows down business operations. 

These relaxed conditions make Vietnam an attractive place for both local and international investors looking to set up or expand their manufacturing operations in industrial parks.

Technological Advancements and Digital Tools

The technological advancements and digital tools being harnessed in Vietnam’s manufacturing landscape are also driving growth. 

The integration of automation and robotics, along with the application of the Internet of Things (IoT) in manufacturing, has been crucial in driving efficiency and innovation. 

The digitization of supply chains has also contributed to making Vietnam a more attractive manufacturing hub in Southeast Asia.

Challenges and Opportunities in Vietnam’s Manufacturing Sector

Vietnam’s manufacturing sector is a key player in its economic growth, facing a mix of challenges and opportunities from both local and global influences. Let’s take a closer look at these aspects.


  • Infrastructure limitations. Transportation, logistics, and energy supply are vital for smooth manufacturing operations. However, any gaps in these areas can slow down the movement of materials and finished products, increase operating costs, and delay deliveries. Improving infrastructure, like roads, ports, and energy systems, is essential to address these challenges.
  • Environmental concerns. Manufacturing can lead to pollution and waste management issues. Moving toward sustainable manufacturing practices, investing in cleaner technologies, and following environmental rules can help tackle these problems.
  • Rising competition from other countries. Vietnam is in a tight spot with global manufacturing shifts. On the one hand, China is seeing higher costs, which is pushing some companies to look elsewhere, making Vietnam an attractive alternative due to its lower costs. On the other hand, Vietnam still relies on China for materials and parts. Beyond China, the ASEAN region — a group of southeast Asian nations that includes Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand — is stepping up its manufacturing game. With more countries vying for a piece of the manufacturing pie, the competition is ramping up, challenging Vietnam to keep improving its manufacturing sector to stay attractive to global businesses.
  • Industry-specific challenges. Each sector has its own hurdles in Vietnam. In textiles, meeting international labor and environmental standards is crucial. For the electronics sector, the fast pace of tech changes is a challenge, requiring continuous updates to keep up. In the automotive industry, meeting global quality standards and adapting to new car tech trends are key challenges.


  • Diversification into high-value industries. There’s a chance for Vietnam to branch out into high-value industries like aerospace. This move can bring in more revenue, create better jobs, and push Vietnam’s manufacturing sector up a notch on the global stage. It’s about moving from being a low-cost manufacturing hub to a place known for high-quality, high-value products.
  • Innovation and R&D Investment. Investing in innovation and research and development (R&D) can be a game-changer for Vietnam. It can lead to better, more advanced products and make the manufacturing sector more competitive globally. By embracing new technologies and investing in R&D, Vietnam can climb up the value chain, making a name for itself as a place of innovation in manufacturing.
  • Strengthening supply chain capabilities. A strong, reliable supply chain is like the backbone of manufacturing. By making sure the supply chain is robust, Vietnam can attract more international manufacturers. It’s about ensuring that materials and products can move smoothly and efficiently, which, in turn, can make Vietnam a go-to place for global companies looking to set up or expand their manufacturing operations.

Mitigate Tariffs Through Vietnam Supply Chain Integration

Vietnam has emerged as a cost-effective manufacturing hub with a slew of advantages, such as low labor costs, strategic geographic location, and a supportive government. 

Are you looking to leverage Vietnam’s manufacturing prowess for your business? Explore Zetwerk’s integrated supply chain solutions in Vietnam. 

Zetwerk helps mitigate tariff challenges, ensuring a smooth supply chain for parts and finished products, and making the most of the cost-effective manufacturing landscape Vietnam offers. 
Discover more about how Zetwerk can be your strategic partner in navigating the manufacturing landscape in Vietnam.