Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are the two largest urban centres in Vietnam as far as population and economic potential are concerned. In recent years, population growth has been a major factor in the economic growth of these centres. However, in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the hike in population is causing critical problems in the urban development process. As these cities grow, so does the movement of people in them.
There has been a tremendous increase in population movement in Vietnam since 1986, when an economic liberalization policy (Doi Moi or Renovation) began to be implemented. Although considerable research has already been done on the migration aspect, there is still not a clear understanding of mobility within the major centres, with a particular focus on the two largest ones, Ho Chi Minh City (overall population of 5 million with 3.7 million in the urban area in 1999) and Hanoi (overall population of 2.7 million with 1.5 million in the urban area). A positive migration balance from the city centres to the suburbs has been observed, based on the two most recent censuses, one conducted in 1989 and the other in 1999. There is a considerable increase in intra-urban mobility in the wake of fast-track urbanization, and this is becoming a key urban planning consideration. This evolution and the policies implemented are impacting the living space of citizens in terms of environment (suggesting improvement) and are tending to increase routine travel distances (suggesting deterioration).
Such intra-urban mobility (that taking place within the administrative limits of the two cities) includes on the one hand intra-urban migration or residential mobility (changing one's residence within the administrative limits), and on the other hand temporary mobility, including commuting movements. This is tending to accentuate the inadequacy of urban infrastructure and transit because of increasing the density of suburban zones, which are the least affluent.