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US Ambassador Advises More Labor Skills as Asean Integrates

Cambodian garment factory workers travel together in motor carts to get home from work at the Sala Lek Pram village, Kampong Chhnang province.
US Ambassador William Todd on Thursday urged the Cambodian government to strengthen the skills of its laborers, in order to meet the needs of an integrated Asean in 2015.

The 10 Southeast Asian countries that comprise Asean are all moving toward an integrated economic block, which will loosen the flow of labor and goods in the region of 600 million people.

“The Asean Economic Community is a big, big thing,” Todd said, speaking to a forum for the promotion of vocational training in the capital. “What that means is that people, workers, are going to be able to go back and forth from the various countries and get jobs,” he said. “And so that’s a good thing for Cambodia.”

An estimated 300,000 Cambodians enter the job market each year, with many seeking employment abroad, where they often work illegally and are vulnerable to abuse.

Todd said that Cambodians must improve their labor skills, or be relegated to lower rungs of the regional economy.

“If the workers are not skilled, and if they are not capable of getting higher skill jobs and the higher paying jobs, Cambodians will be in low-paid, low skill jobs,” he said.

Laov Him, director general of the Ministry of Labor’s vocational education department, said Asean’s market will need skilled technicians. But Cambodia needs help in training, not just from the government, but outside partners, including investors, he said.

Meanwhile, the government is focusing on construction, mechanics, and tourism, he said.