PHNOM PENH —
Millions of Cambodian unskilled laborers will be impacted after Asean integration comes into effect in 2015, according to experts who spoke at a regional forum in Phnom Penh Friday.
The forum, organized by Cambodian Center for Independent Media, addressed the opportunities and challenges of regional economic integration on labor forces in Cambodia.
“When we talk about Asean integration, we talk about the flow of skilled workers so they can find jobs with higher salaries in the recipient countries,” Ya Navuth, executive director of Caram Cambodia, said. “But unskilled labor will be impacted. Without skills, they will have difficulty to find jobs, and if they can, the available jobs are unskilled, low paid and of high working hazard.”
The 2015 Asean integration will allow skilled workers in member countries to work legally in other member states. These skilled workers include engineers, architects, doctors, lawyers and accountants. But the majority of Cambodian laborers are farmers, construction workers and factory workers who lack technical skills.
According to a joint report by the National Institute of Statistics and the International Labor Organization, Cambodia had 10.7 million workers over the age of 15 in 2012. Only 45 percent of them completed primary education.
Chuob Narath, deputy director of the labor department at the Ministry of Labor, said he shared concerns over the fate of Cambodian workers, but he said the government is working hard to solve this problem.
“The Ministry of Labor has set five main priorities, including improving working conditions and industrial relations, enhancing professional training, creating jobs, accessing social security and providing market information to labor forces,” he said.
However, Moeun Tola, the head of the labor program at the Community Legal Education Center, said implementation of the government’s numerous policies remains to be seen.
“We see some discussions in legal frameworks, but we have not seen the government do much to prepare for Asean integration in 2015,” Moeun Tola said.
Cambodian needs to improve working conditions and wages, provide professional training and improve education if it wants to gain advantages from the impending integration, he said.