A five-year cooperation framework and plan of action that will aid Cambodia’s growth and build a stronger platform for future development was signed last week by the International Labour Office (ILO) and the Cambodian government.
The Decent Work Country Program (DWCP) for Cambodia focuses on assistance in three specific areas: 1) improving industrial relations and rights at work; 2) promoting an enabling environment for decent employment growth, with a particular focus on young people; and 3) improving and expanding social protection.
This action plan will run until 2015.
These priorities reflect the main concerns of the government, employers’ and workers’ organisations, and the ILO’s specific expertise. Through its interventions, the DWCP is supportive of the ILO’s global objective to promote Decent Work as a means to better secure sustainable development, poverty reduction and social justice worldwide.
“Today’s ceremony marks the beginning of a new body of work for the ILO in Cambodia, one that we hope will be more targeted, more collaborative and producing more impact than before”, said Jiyuan Wang, director of the ILO Country Office for Thailand, Cambodia and Lao PDR, adding that it is the strongest Decent Work Country Program that Cambodia has ever had.
The DWCP provides the basis for the ILO’s contribution to the government’s Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity and Efficiency, which serves as the foremost socio-economic policy agenda and political vision for the country’s development.
Accordingly, the 2011-2015 country program addresses a wide range of labour and developmental concerns, including training and skills development, employment generation, entrepreneurship and enterprise development, social protection, local economic development, industrial relations and social dialogue, and labour market governance.
The plan was developed through multiple rounds of discussions and consultations between the ILO and its tripartite constituents in the government, Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations and trade unions.
In this respect, it represents the collective will of these actors to address critical challenges to the achievement of Decent Work for all Cambodians.
Initial action will focus on improving labour relations in Cambodia and in promoting the growing maturity of the industrial relations environment toward the use of dialogue to reach agreement on important groups, to increase compliance with labour standards and practices, and workplace issues.
The focus of the ILO work is to strengthen the professional and technical capacities of social partners to promote and protect equality and rights at work for discriminated and vulnerable to improve social dialogue and labour dispute resolution mechanism.
The ILO has provided substantial assistance in strengthening the arbitration function, the implementation of MoU on labour relations between the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) and trade unions, and most recently the draft trade union law, all of which create an historic milestone in Cambodia’s industrial relations.
Another priority is given to employment creation, particularly for youth and vulnerable groups.
The ILO together with its constituents seeks to expand access to labour market information and business development services and strengthen employment services for these target groups. Early action also took place in the form of the National Youth Employment Forum which was held in Phnom Penh, last December and delivered a proposed action plan on employment for young people, the country’s greatest asset and drivers of economic renewal and prosperity.
The results of this and the outcomes of similar discussions in other countries are due to be shared at the International Youth Summit in Geneva this June. The ILO is providing the government with technical assistance in the implementation of National Policy for Cambodian Youth Development and in the development of the forthcoming National Employment Policy.
Other actions focus on the garment sector, a critical component of Cambodia’s export economy and a source of jobs for many families. Key areas of ILO-supported work will include enhanced productivity and competitiveness of the industry and promoting health, working and living conditions of garment workers.
Better social protection for Cambodia’s workforce is also a high priority. In both the formal and informal economies the ILO will be working with its three constituents and civil society groups, to find ways to protect those who, at present, have little or no protection.
Eliminating child labour, extending occupational safety and health protection and social health insurance to workers in formal and informal sectors, improving infrastructure through labour-based public works and social protection services through a single window service as part of the National Social Protection Strategy have been identified as a major area of work for the DWCP.
“It is our hope that with this document as a guiding force, we can do our best work in enhancing the livelihoods of workers, improving working conditions, strengthening social protection and stimulating greater prosperity for millions of Cambodian workers and their families”, Wang said.
The ILO estimates that, to achieve all outcomes, DWCP will need to raise about US$5 million a year, jointly with development partners and its tripartite constituents.