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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Migrant worker jobs hit by regional unemployment

Migrant worker jobs hit by regional unemployment

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040209_14.jpg

Opportunities for Cambodians to find jobs outside the Kingdom diminish as East Asian employment market shrinks amid economic downturn

Bloomberg

Labourers at a building site in Phnom Penh. Employment agencies say migrant jobs are scarce, which is impacting the domestic market.

GOVERNMENT and non-state bodies estimate that Cambodian migrant workers will find it increasingly difficult to find employment in the region as demand for overseas workers drops.

Migrant worker job markets Malaysia and South Korea - both popular with Cambodians seeking work overseas - were particularly badly affected, sources said.

Sok Chanpheakdey, director of Philimore Cambodia Co Ltd, a company that sends Cambodians to work in Malaysia, said that the demand for factory workers has dropped between 70 percent to 80 percents this year. Housekeeping jobs - which attract 80 to 100 Cambodian workers to Malaysia every month - were stable, however, he added.

"The Malaysian government has announced a halt to migrant-worker employment for the industrial sector because many people there are facing unemployment, so they are not seeking workers from outside," he said.

Many factories and companies in Malaysia have gone bankrupt, meaning the employment market had become saturated with factory workers and labourers, he said.

OUR COUNTRY HAS TO COMPETE WITH 15 OTHER COUNTRIES ... HUNTING FOR JOBS

Heng Sour, chief of the Administration and Finance for Overseas Manpower Unit, a Ministry of Labour department, said that underemployment had become a problem in South Korea with employers reducing work hours due to financial problems. Migrant worker numbers were also down. In 2008, Cambodia sent 2,531 workers to South Korea, but Heng Sour said that this number would be expected to drop to 2,000 in 2009.

"Presently, our country has to compete with [the citizens of] 15 other countries who are also hunting for jobs in South Korea, especially Vietnamese, Thais and Filipinos," said Heng Sour.

Ya Navuth, executive director of Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility, said he was concerned about the impact a decrease in overseas Cambodian manpower would have on domestic unemployment, citing Thailand as another example of a country where the demand for migrant labour had dropped significantly.

The decrease in Cambodian migrants workers will reduce national revenue as remittances from overseas are reduced, Ya Navuth said.

In South Korea, migrant workers can make up to between US$600 to $700 per month, in Malaysia they can get from $120 to $150 per month and in Thailand just $80 to $120 per month. Cambodian migrant workers abroad send back to the Kingdom around $300 million per year. 

Ya Navuth called on the government to prepare a job stimulus package to create more jobs or to offer to farmers to increase agricultural capacity. Without such a fund, the livelihoods of the poorest Cambodians would be severely affected, he warned.

Sam Rainsy Party's lawmaker Mu Sochua backed up the call, reiterating her party's request for a $500 million stimulus package, primarily for the Ministry of Labour, to help create more jobs and offer vocational training courses. 

"Whenever people have more skills, they can change careers," she said. "The government has to be responsible and show the real figures for unemployment so we can organise the right amount from the national budget to curb the issue."

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