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Youth Need More Skills To Compete in Integrated Asean, Expert Says

Mr. Pen Somony, director of Cambodian Volunteers for Society (CVS), joins a discussion on youth and workers' skills before Asean integration on VOA Khmer's Hello VOA radio call-in show, Thursday, February 05, 2015. (Lim Sothy/VOA Khmer)

Cambodia’s younger population lacks the skills and knowledge to compete in an integrated Asean, a youth leader says.

Asean is working toward economic integration and a free flow of goods and services across the region by the end of this year.

But if Cambodians are to take advantage of that integration, they need more education and training, Pen Somony, head of Cambodian Volunteers for Society, told “Hello VOA” Thursday.

Cambodians under the age of 35 comprise a full third of the population, he said, but across Asean’s population of 600 million, fully 60 percent are youth. That creates a competitive challenge.

“If Cambodia has weaker abilities, we will lose, and we can’t compete with others,” he said.

Cambodia has rice, for example, but it can’t compete with Thai rice production. Other similar competition from Asean will emerge, he said.

Cambodia has thousands of people working in South Korea and Thailand, but they aren’t really bringing skills back to the country, he said.

“They do not work as the skilled labor that can receive the payment higher like [the other countries’] own people,” he said. “So when they return home, I believe that they don’t have that many real skills to participate in the Cambodian work place.”

The skills of other Asean workers could take jobs from Cambodians here, as well, he said. “When we have low skills, we will get low salaries, and they will become our supervisors and we their subordinates.”