Existing statistical sources, archives, and link to the Statistical Office of Vietnam


Statistical data sources for the pre-1863 period

(to be completed)

Statistical data sources for the period 1863-1949

The statistical data for the period 1863-1949 come primarily from colonial sources. However, as France established control only gradually, statistics for the early colonial period are sparse. For example, during the early years, data collection was limited to foreign trade and public expenditure; moreover, until 1897, foreign trade data included exports to and imports from central and northern Vietnam.  After 1870, the collection and publication of statistics in Cochinchina gradually improved, reaching a very high level of coverage during the 1890s (see the statistical yearbook Etat de la Cochinchine, published annually by the colonial government of Cochinchina from 1878 to 1904, and in 1908). Though the statistical yearbooks bear some similarity to the reports of the Chinese-style Confucian provincial administration, the coverage and presentation of the data are in fact more similar to the annual statistical reports by the local authorities of the prefectures (département) of mainland France. The coverage of agricultural output and population data includes a breakdown for each of the 20 provinces of the colony. 

In contrast with the relative abundance of data available for southern Vietnam for this period, statistics on central and central Vietnam are sparse. From 1870 onwards, the French consulates in Haiphong, Hanoi and Hue monitored the sea-bound exports and imports of Northern and Central Vietnam under the powers granted them under the unequal treaties. They did so in cooperation with the local Confucian administration of Vietnamese mandarins that had previously been in charge of controlling and monitoring foreign trade. The coverage increased somewhat after the French invasion of northern and central Vietnam in 1882. The new colonial authorities of Tonkin and Annam attempted to establish a system of data collection. However, with the exception of data on public revenues and expenditures, and some data collected in cooperation with local French companies and Chambers of Commerce, especially on prices, wages, and output in the mining industry, it was not until the 1930s that the quality and coverage reached levels comparable to those attained by the colonial authorities of Cochinchina. After the administrative reform of 1897, customs and public monopoly revenues and some indirect taxes were transferred from the local governments of Cochinchina, Annam, and Tonkin to the Government General of Indochina (Gouvernement Général de l’Indochine), the central government with headquarters in Hanoi. The central government in Hanoi collected data on foreign trade, exports to and imports from the different territories of Indochina, but also attempted to collect population and agricultural output data, based on reports by provincial authorities. These statistics for the period 1898-1913 are presented in a fairly exhaustive manner in Brenier (1914).

It appears that the coverage and reliability of the statistics collected and published in Cochinchina gradually declined after 1897, especially after 1908 when the yearly publication Etat de la Cochinchine was suspended. Nevertheless, by Southeast Asian standard the quality and coverage remained relatively good, particularly in the population censuses undertaken after 1900. After 1913, the statistical services of the Government General of Indochina published statistical compendia in French inappropriately labeled “Yearbooks” (Annuaires Statistiques de l’Indochine). Altogether, eleven such volumes were published until 1949, covering the entire period 1913-1946 and providing statistics on population, production, consumption, public finance, money, finance, prices, wages, foreign trade, as well as social indicators. Statistical series for the period from 1897-1946 are available in several retrospective series published by the statistical service of the General Government of Indochina, with the latest one appearing in 1949. Several series should be used with care. Especially among those on agriculture, some series from the yearbooks are inconsistent with more detailed statistics collected by the Department of Agriculture (Direction de l’Agriculture) of the same Government General of Indochina (see chapter 3 for details).

Data published in the statistical yearbooks of Indochina are generally based on figures previously reported in other official sources. A number of statistics on various specific topics can be found in the Economic Bulletin of Indochina (Bulletin Economique de l’Indochine, published from 1898 to 1950), and in other reports prepared by the different administrative departments. In most cases, these reports were not printed but typewritten (and sometimes hand-written). Vietnamese and French public archives storing publications of the administration of French Indochina generally hold the originals or carbon copies of these reports. 

Two sources of quantitative and qualitative information, other than statistical yearbooks and official reports, were used for the present research and should be regarded as particularly important for further study aimed at completing or improving the estimates presented in this volume. The first type of auxiliary sources is travelogues, with those of the late 19th century especially valuable because other sources of information are scarce. The second type is scholarly works published before 1975 containing case studies in agronomy, anthropology, economy, and geography (generally focusing on several villages or a particular region).

Statistical data sources for the period since 1949

From 1949 to 1954, the Republic of Vietnam was formally independent, although part of the French Commonwealth (Union Française). During this period, four statistical yearbooks in a bilingual format (French and Vietnamese) were published. The content of these yearbooks is similar to the one of the Statistical Yearbooks of Indochina. The major difference with the pre-1945 period is that the administration supported by the French did not control the whole Vietnamese territory. Many areas were under the control of the Viet-Minh administration during Indochina War. The same, albeit to a lesser extent, applies to South Vietnam after 1954. The underground administration of the Viet-Cong communist insurgency, supported by North Vietnam, controlled an increasingly large share of the South Vietnam’s territory during the Vietnam War. The existence of a dual system of administration in Vietnam between 1945 and 1954, and between 1954 and 1975 in South Vietnam, limited the ability of the official government to collect data.

As the French administration (or French-sponsored Vietnamese administration after 1949) had almost no control over parts of Southern, Central and Northern Vietnam between 1945 and 1954, even the most elementary data, such as on rice output or population, are missing entirely for several provinces. When data collected by the Viet-Minh administration are available, it is possible to use these figures to fill in missing data or to complement poor data. 

Even for the period after 1955, reliable statistics for Vietnam in its present political boundaries are difficult to obtain: statistical series published by the UN and other international organizations, which provide a plethora of data on most other countries, as well as national publications, are of limited use. Reflecting Vietnam’s tumultuous history and uneasy relations with international organizations until the early 1990s, the UN Statistical Yearbooks, for example, have large gaps: North Vietnam is generally not included at all, as is often the case for reunified Vietnam until the 1980s. However, a large amount of official data is reported in the statistical yearbooks of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Economic and Social Commission for Asian and the Pacific (ESCAP) of the United Nations.

Statistical yearbooks were published after 1954 by the authorities of North Vietnam and South Vietnam for the part of the country each controlled and, since reunification of 1976, by the General Statistical Office of Vietnam for the entire country. The statistical yearbooks for South Vietnam are the most useful due to their higher degree of coverage. It is not an easy task to assess the quality and reliability of the statistics published in the yearbooks complied during the Vietnam War (1954-1975). The general impression is that both in North and in South Vietnam, the authorities in charge of compiling these series faced serious problems of definition, measurement, and lack of data. The same remarks apply to reunified Vietnam, at least until the introduction of socio-economic reforms of the late 1980s.



National Archives of Vietnam

Office of Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs: No. 1 Ton That Dam, Ba Dinh, Ha Noi.

National Archives Center I: 18 Vu Phan Ham, Phuong Yen Hoa, Cau Giay, Ha Noi. (Colonial Records)

National Archives II: 2 Le Duan, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. (Republic of Vietnam Records)

National Archives III: 34 Phan Ke Binh, Ba Dinh District, Ha Noi. (Post-1945 records of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam)

Archives Nationales d'Outre Mer (France)


Vietnam Center and Archives at Texas Tech University (United States)



Links to the website of General Statistical Office of Vietnam

In English: https://www.gso.gov.vn/Default_en.aspx?tabid=491

In Vietnamese: https://www.gso.gov.vn/Default.aspx?tabid=217

Last update on Wednesday 14 November 2018 (07:41) by  J-P Bassino


Editor : Jean-Pascal Bassino [UMR IAO]

Contact : Jean-Pascal Bassino

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