Asian Historical Statistics Project (AHSTAT-COE Project)

Vietnam 1895-1954 Research Group (VN98-2)

Estimating population and labour force in Vietnam under French rule (1900-1954) *

Maks Banens **, Jean-Pascal Bassino *** and Eric Egretaud **

Paul valéry University (France)

May 1998


This paper presents preliminary findings on population and labour force in Vietnam under French rule, between 1900 and 1954. These data are based on estimations and censuses carried out by the colonial administration. For the major part of former Indochina population and labour force in industrial branches, data are extremely fragmentary and their reliability is uncertain.

As a rule, the French colonial administration was not much interested in producing accurate figures on Native population, especially before the end of the nineteenth century. This explains the time limitation of the research to the 1900-1954 period. Regarding labour force, the same situation prevailed. French administration investigations focused on fiscal issues. Labour force was not regarded as a reliable indicator for estimating income from productive activities.

A large part of the historiography of the last five decades on Vietnam under French rule focuses on labour exploitation by French firms and colonial administration. Even if one may understand this point of view, the fragility of these works resides in the fact that few evidences were produced, except fragmentary examples based on microeconomic data. All these features make population and labour force estimates a difficult but essential task for research on Vietnamfs quantitative economic history.

This paper presents the sources on Vietnam' s population under French rule and analyses the patterns of population and labour force by official series. Using a reverse projection method, it proposes a reconstruction of Vietnam population and an estimate of labour force relying on gender and age specific labour participation hypotheses.



I. Sources on Vietnam' s demography under French rule

II. Patterns of population and labour force according official series

III. Reconstructing Vietnam population history



Appendix 1: The Inverse Projection Method

Appendix 2: Vietnam demographic data

* We are indebted to Jean-Dominique Giacometti, Charles MacDonald, Konosuke Odaka, Osamu Saito and Trinh Van Thao for their comments and suggestions. All remaining errors and omissions are ours. Financial research support by the AHSTAT COE Project and also, at an earlier stage, by the Paul Valéry University Research Fund, is gratefully acknowledged.

** Paul Valéry University, Route de Mende, 34000 Montpellier (France)

*** Paul Valéry University, Campus Vauban, 30000 Nimes (France)