DESPITE expressing concerns over a recent spate of reports concerning the alleged mistreatment of migrant worker trainees, Labour Ministry officials yesterday extolled the benefits of working abroad as they launched a report detailing a new set of guidelines designed to bolster worker protections.
The report, which outlines the ministry’s new labour migration policy, states that youth unemployment levels are “becoming critical”, and points to foreign labour markets as “a cornerstone for alleviation of unemployment, income enhancement and poverty
About 250,000 young job-seekers will enter the labour market annually over the next few years, according to estimates in the report, which notes that employment opportunities in the Kingdom have become limited because “economic growth and employment in Cambodia have been narrowly concentrated in the agricultural, garment, construction and tourism sectors”.
The authors of the report, dated June, conclude that expanding the migrant workforce can benefit young workers by providing more opportunities, so long as more stringent protections are in place. “Thus, the current Ministerial Strategic Plan sets out the following main interventions: improved management of foreign employment; expanded protection of migrant workers; strong inter-ministerial coordination; and intimate international cooperation,” the report says.
Among other things, the new policy guidelines require that labour attachés be posted to Cambodian embassies to support workers in foreign countries, that a list of placement and documentation costs payable by migrant workers be established, and that vocational training courses be improved.
The report also underscores the need for new “comprehensive” legislation governing the labour-migration process and the protection of migrant workers.
Labour officials said yesterday that amendments to an existing sub-decree were expected to be finalised by the end of the year, and that the amendments would set out stricter guidelines for migrant recruitment companies.
According to the report, the legislation should include “provisions for the suspension or withdrawal of recruitment and placement licenses in cases of violation”.
The new regulations would support what appears to be a rapidly expanding workforce, with twice as many Cambodian migrant workers finding jobs in Malaysia through recruitment firms during the first half of this year compared with the same period last year, according to figures provided by the Association of Cambodian Recruitment Agencies earlier this month.
Seng Sakada, director general at the Labour Ministry, said yesterday that migrants stood to gain both individual and social rewards.
“The workers who go to work abroad get many benefits such as earning money to help their living standards and professional skills for their lives,” he said, and migrant workers were often able to send money home to their families.
Hou Vudthy, deputy director of the ministry’s Employment and Manpower Department, said yesterday that he believed that the sub-decree would enable migrant workers to experience these benefits without fear of the potential drawbacks.
“Now we have more experience after we practiced sending the workers to work abroad since 1998,” he said, referring to the year workers were first sent through the ministry.
“We have 12 years’ [experience] with this, so we have enough experience to make our sub-decree strong and good.”