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Project Seeks To Improve Labor Market

In Cambodia, there are 11 million people of working age, and not enough jobs.
In Cambodia, there are 11 million people of working age, and not enough jobs.
A $1 million project, sponsored by the Chinese and undertaken with the help of the International Labor Organization, hopes to improve employment and labor in Cambodia and Laos.

The project launched in February, but it has been picking up the pace in recent weeks, in an effort to improve the nascent National Employment Agency. The agency seeks to put prospective employees with the right jobs, in an effort to prevent continued migration of workers and to absorb a growing population into the work force.

Efforts to date include the formation of a joint committee of all related parties and plans to hold more official discussions, Hay Hunleng, an adviser for the National Employment Agency, told VOA Khmer.

“At this moment, the committee aims to strengthen capacity of the staffs working at agencies by offering them more lessons and techniques,” he said. “Also, we have to further enhance our ways of disseminating information to the public. We have conducted an evaluation so we believe we will get positive results.”

In Cambodia, the efforts are focusing on a three-year plan to improve job services at centers in Phnom Penh and six provinces, including Siem Reap and Battambang. The idea is to improve job placement through better market data.

Cambodia has a robust informal market: 5 million Cambodians who are working in the market, with jobs like motorcycle taxi drivers, construction workers and street vendors, according to the ILO. Three million people work in industries and enterprises, like garment factories or businesses.

But there are 11 million people of working age, and not enough jobs. Meanwhile, some 30,000 people graduate each year, putting them into a market that can’t absorb them.

The ILO’s national coordinator in Cambodia, Tun Sophorn, said the new job placement program could help.

The National Employment Agency, which began operating in 2010, has helped about 20,000 people get registered for jobs. It has expanded from the capital into other city centers, but it is not yet well known.

In Kampot, for example, 1,000 people were employed with the help of the employment agency, said Phoeuk Chanthy, a team leader at the Kampot center. But it needs more funding to expand its operations and to get the word out, he said.

“Right now, not many people, especially youths, know about what our agency is doing,” he said. “So that is the reason why not many of them come here.”

But underemployment is not just due to a lack of awareness between employees and employers.

Many university students choose social studies and humanities, while the demand for jobs is for technically skilled workers, Tun Sophorn said.

And there are problems with wages and standards, he said.

“Officials keep saying that Cambodia has enough jobs for people, so people should not migrate to work in other countries,” he said. “But we have to think about payment and safety of jobs. In Cambodia workers get low payment and have to work longer hours per day with no life insurance. So even though working outside the country is risky, many people keep migrating because at least the payment is high.”