YOUTH unemployment rates in Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia are expected to rise to as high as 14.8 percent by the end of the year, according to a new report released by the International Labour Organisation.
The report, released today, states that global unemployment among people aged 15-24 is expected to reach 13.1 percent by the end of the year. It stood at 13 percent at the end of 2009, when 81 million young people were out of work, a rise of 7.8 million since 2007.
The report also says that young people working in low-paid sectors of Cambodian industry were finding it hard to break back into the sector after losing their jobs because of the global financial downturn.
“If a worker in a low-income country loses a job in the formal sector – such as the garment worker in Cambodia – there is little chance of finding new work in the same sector as it continues to shrink,” the report reads.
Tun Sophorn, national coordinator at the ILO, said that the Kingdom’s unemployment rate may be higher than the figure mentioned in the report.
“We still need updated data on national youth unemployment,” he said. “The seasonal farmers, they sometimes work for three months and are unemployed for the rest of the year. But that is counted as employment.”
He said the lack of jobs for Cambodian youths can largely be contributed to a struggling economy and more youths entering a market that cannot sustain employment growth.
“Acknowledging the economic crisis last year, there were a lot of job losses and a lot of problems with young people entering the markets,” he said.
“Hundreds of young people enter the workforce every day. They are trying to get good and decent jobs, but they still face challenges.”
The ILO report follows a Labour Ministry report released Tuesday, which stated that youth unemployment levels were “becoming critical” and pointed to foreign labour markets as “a cornerstone for alleviation of unemployment, income enhancement and poverty reduction”.
The Labour Ministry report also stated that economic growth and employment in Cambodia had become “narrowly concentrated in the agricultural, garment, construction and tourism sectors”.
Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said youths continually look to overseas employment because of a lack of proper training and opportunities in Cambodia.
“Every year around 200,000 to 300,000 youths go abroad to look for jobs,” he said.
“The government should promote proper training. They should provide the youth with professional training, and research the market and what people need to develop the economic sector.”
He said that foreign investment was the key to developing sustainable employment for youth workers in Cambodia. “Competition in Cambodia is very bad; gas [petrol] and electricity rates in Cambodia are the highest in Asia,” he said.
“There needs to be a good environment for investors. Good investors from developed countries don’t want to invest in Cambodia [because] of government bureaucracy and corruption.”
He said: “We need to reform our economic policies.”
Officials from the Ministry of Labour could not be reached for comment yesterday.