Last June, I posted that the "village" consisting of all of the people living on our hẻm (lane) nurtured the teenagers on the streets so that there was very little of the teen-age gang crime prevalent in American cities. The residents of Vietnamese neighborhoods or villages watch out for the kids on the streets and offer guidance when needed.
This extends to child care also. Although there are many child care centers and people that provide day-care in their homes, many families cannot afford these services. Our neighbor family is one of them. The husband works the early morning shift, and the mother works a late-evening shift. Many other neighbors support them by watching over their toddler during the day.
The 13-year old girl across the hẻm walks the child up and down the hẻm for hours every day, and the single-woman store-keeper across the hẻm is often entertaining the child.
These people aren't paid for their babysitting -- they just enjoy participating in helping this child grow up.
This child (about thirteen months old now) is a very happy child, and always breaks out into a smile when she sees this tall westerner out on the hẻm. She should start talking soon, and will have many neighbors to help her learn verbal skills quickly. This must be why Vietnamese are such verbal people -- they grow up from childhood speaking with elders and constantly talking and bantering with neighbor kids. And although most of the neighbors have television sets, there seems to be little dependence upon them as surrogate babysitters.
There might be some downside to this, though. I note that the neighborhood kids and unemployed older adolescents never seem to want to venture out of the hẻm. In talking with some of them, it seems that they may get downtown once a year, but they have no desire to do so. Their mothers and grandmothers also don't seem to want to go beyond the neighborhood market.