A leading opposition lawmaker has urged the government to make better use of skilled migrant labor returning from overseas in a bid to encourage more Cambodians to stay in the country.
Mu Sochua, a Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker for Battambang, told the Hello VOA call-in program in late June that failure to recruit returning skilled workers would hurt the economy.
“This is the issue that we have to tackle in order to keep our human resources,” Sochua said. “To keep our potential is not simply retaining their skills, but to expand opportunities for higher skills. We should not let them come back and randomly look for jobs. This is a loss of our resources.”
Sochua said that the Cambodian labor market was still small and low wages would continue to push hundreds of thousands of Cambodians to seek work abroad every year.
So the government needs to do more to support local companies’ growth, she added.
Many local enterprises face fears of bankruptcy, she said, which discourages them from raising wages and taking on more workers, a situation that could be mitigated in part by a government prepared to take measure such as lowering interest rates.
“Our labor market is big only in non-skilled labor like restaurant service and construction, which is hazardous,” Sochua said. “Our workers live from day to day from their work. There is no progress.”
More than a million Cambodians are thought to work overseas, in countries such as Thailand and South Korea.
“What we lose is enormous in terms of human resources, especially those who have higher education,” said Nuth Karona, a former laborer who recently returned from almost five years working in South Korea. “Government policy does not respond to returnees like me. They seem to go far away from what young people have in mind. I cannot use the skills that I gained from there at all. There is no market for it. I might have to go to work at the same job that I abandoned before.”
Karona holds a bachelor degree in business management and worked in several different companies, from machinery to electronics, while he was in South Korea. Before he left Cambodia, he was working for construction companies, handling machinery and logistics.
He said the money he had saved from working overseas is not enough to start even a small business in his homeland.