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Youth See Volunteerism As a Means to a Jobs

Cambodian students raise their hands while being addressed by U.N.-backed genocide tribunal officers at Bak Touk High School, in Phnom Penh.

With unemployment still high among Cambodian youth, some have begun to seek volunteer opportunities as a bridge to decent jobs in the future.

More and more graduates have shown an interest in volunteer work, which helps them gain experience and expand their networks, said Som Monorom, a project officer at Cambodian Volunteers for Society.

“If they don't do volunteer work with an institution or community, they will probably be unable to find employment opportunities,” he said, adding that most volunteers came from poor or middle-class families.

“There are hardly any youths from well-off families who want to volunteer, because most of them have a lot of money, so they do not care much about job opportunity,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

Cambodia has the highest per capita population of youth in the region: those between 10 to 24 years old make up 35 percent of the populace.

But with an estimated 250,000 youths entering the employment market each year, and the main industry, garments, only supplying a total 300,000 jobs, work opportunities are scant.

That means greater competition for the jobs that do exist.

“Today, getting a job requires work experience,” said Pen Sophal, youth media officer for UN Volunteers. “Even though you graduate from a university, you'll find it hard to get a job without work experience.”