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Kingdom scores low on human capital index

Students study at Wat Koh high school in Phnom Penh in 2014.
Students study at Wat Koh high school in Phnom Penh in 2014. Pha Lina

Kingdom scores low on human capital index

A report released yesterday by the World Economic Forum (WEF) underscores Cambodia’s poor performance at educating and training its citizens in order to develop a competitive workforce and put their skills to productive use.

The Kingdom ranked 100th out of 130 countries in terms of human capital development, well below most of its regional peers, according to the Human Capital Report 2016.

“A nation’s human capital endowment – the knowledge and skills embodied in individuals that enable them to create economic value – can be a more important determinant of its long-term success than virtually any other resource,” the report’s authors noted.

Published annually, the Human Capital Report ranks countries on how well they are developing and deploying their human capital for the demands of a constantly changing and globally competitive economy.

According to the report, a looming “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is creating seismic shifts that are affecting all industries, reshaping production, consumption and other economic factors.

“The very nature of work is changing, in part due to new technologies and their subsequent impact on business models, and in part because of new platforms that allow talent to connect to markets in wholly new ways,” WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab said in the report’s preface.

“The development of relevant talent will determine whether we all partake in the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution or experience its disruptions as bystanders.”

This year’s report – structured on 46 indicators that gauge education and job skill levels as well as economic participation – saw Cambodia’s ranking drop three notches to 100. The Kingdom scored far below most other ASEAN countries, with only Laos and Myanmar ranked lower, at 106th and 109th, respectively.

Cambodia’s low ranking reflects deficiencies in the country’s education system, with the poorest performance assigned to its 15-24 age bracket, which scored 109th overall.

While not a direct correlation, countries with the lowest proportion of GDP spent on education tend to score lower in the rankings. According to the World Bank, Cambodia spends about 2.6 per cent of GDP on education, the lowest among ASEAN countries excluding Myanmar.

For employers, the Kingdom’s low level of education and vocational training can make hiring a challenge. Local recruitment agencies and online job portals say that while many Cambodian job applicants have management skills, they often lack the technical skills that employers are seeking.

“There is still a lot that needs to be developed,” said Gijs Braakman, business development manager at Everjobs Cambodia. “Both hard and soft skills are missing . . . especially IT knowledge – from [software] skills to coding capabilities – which are skills demanded by employers in Cambodia and outside.”

One positive, he said, was that while the level of English could be improved, Cambodian job seekers exhibit a higher overall competence compared to neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam, ranked 48th and 68th, respectively.

However, the relatively low level of hard skills may be discouraging international employers from recruiting here.

“ASEAN regional integration has a lot of potential, but so far not a lot of demand from outside Cambodia [to recruit from its] workforce,” Braakman said.

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