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Report shows worrying school drop-out rate

As Cambodia's youth is set to carry on the country’s economic development, there are worrying signs for the future workforce with high drop out rates from school, new data released yesterday show.

The Labour Force 2012 report compiled by the National Institute of Statistics, the Ministry of Planning and the UN’s International Labour Organisation, shows that some 3.8 per cent of Cambodia’s 2.1 million 15- to 24-year-olds are unemployed. This figure is well above the national rate of 2.7 per cent.

Just 46.6 per cent of Cambodia’s employed youths finished secondary school, while 41.5 per cent have only completed primary school, the report revealed.

“If you combine the high drop out rates, there is a big challenge for the future of the skilled workforce,” Makiko Matsumoto, employment specialist at the ILO said yesterday at a conference to release the survey results at the Cambodiana Hotel in Phnom Penh.

Data was collated from a survey of almost 10,000 Cambodian households.

A country emerging from a history of conflict and poverty can make the balance between education and work a challenging one, according to Mey Kalyan, a senior adviser on the Supreme National Economic Council.

“[But] this country is in the process of building up its human resources,” he said, making reference to the government’s rectangular strategy.

Kalyan said initiatives such as enhancing technical training options and understanding industry workforce demand were under way, but reducing poverty was also needed to keep kids at school.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association, also links drop out rates to poverty.

“It costs them [parents] a lot to invest in their child’s education, and they worry that after graduation, their children will [only] find a low salary jobs,” he said.

Hong Cheun, director at the government’s national employment agency, said yesterday that as Cambodia’s economy grows, so to does the demand for greater skills, though the education system was struggling to keep up.

“Skill shortage is growing, not only for the lower- or medium-skilled but also the higher-skilled, because of the kind of rapid changes in the structure of the current labour market,” he said.

Cheun added that the government plans to encourage greater vocational training that would help to diversify the workforce and meet industry demands over the next five to 10 years.

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