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Government Cuts Recruitment Amid Downturn

The government will reduce the number of new recruits for administration positions by 10 percent in 2009, citing budget concerns.

“If we have enough money to fulfill the demand, we don’t need to reform,” said Ngo Hongly, secretary-general for the Council of Minister’s administrative reform department. “We’ve thoroughly thought about the financial risk, and whether we have enough money for salaries and retirement.”

About 8,000 recruits will join the government, more than 1,000 less than requested by the ministries for 2009.

“It’s true that we have to save up money, following slow economic growth, so that we can help ourselves when we face a crisis,” said Kim Phala, deputy director of the Ministry of Finance’s policy department.

Tens of thousands of students apply for government jobs each year, vying for monthly salaries between 100,000 riel, about $25, and 250,000 riel, or $50.

In a $1.5 billion budget, the current administration spent about $85 million a year on salaries for more than 200,000 employees in 2008, according to government figures. The total budget for 2009 will top $1.8 billion, but operations budgets will be restricted, officials said.

This lowered recruitment could mean rising unemployment rates, with jobs in the private sector also limited, according to Sok Sina, an independent economist.

“I believe that the employment condition in our country won’t be good in 2009,” Sok Sina said.

The International Labor Organization estimates around 275,000 Cambodians between the ages of 15 and 24 are seeking employment, with that number expected to grow, as 10,000 graduates each year leave higher education.

Cambodia has around 2,500 companies formally listed with the Ministry of Commerce, with a large number of them opening between 2007 and 2008, providing a source of jobs for young graduates.

Some of these private companies have begun to reduce the number of employees.

“Our company will not recruit more workers, but will reduce by 30 percent, as we face an economic crisis,” said Ly Seng Keang, general manager of business and construction at Benshermen Cambodia, which has 1,200 workers and has heavily recruited new employees over the past few years.

In Channy, chief executive officer of Acleda Bank, which has 6,000 employees, said the bank recruited 2,400 new staff members in both 2007 and 2008, but this year will only employ an additional 1,000.

“We cannot always employ more staff,” he said. “If we choose more than that, we won’t have any work to offer, as our new branches have declined from 22 last year to only 18 this year.”

Other companies say they don’t plan to hire any more staff for 2009 at all.