Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng said on Saturday that the employment rate in the Kingdom currently stands at 99.3 per cent of the total workforce of nearly 10 million people – a figure dismissed by some social analysts as unrealistic.
Speaking at the National Career and Productivity Fair 2018 in Phnom Penh over the weekend, Sam Heng said the labour sector continued to grow at a steady rate.
“In 2018, the employment rate is at 99.3 per cent of the total workforce, accounting for nearly 10 million people,” he said.
He said in the formal economic sector, there are 1.5 million employees among the 12,000 enterprises registered with the Labour Ministry.
In the informal economic sector, 600,000 enterprises employed about 2.4 million people, while over four million people are employed in agriculture.
There are currently 1.2 million migrant workers employed abroad, whereas the number of civil servants stands at 500,000.
“Constant economic growth has enabled the government to further develop and extend the social security system known as the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) for employees. The aim is to ensure better job security and income for them and their families.
“The NSSF covers labour risks and healthcare for employees in the formal economic sector and is fully contributed by employers as required by Samdech [Hun Sen] since January this year,” he said, adding that employees in the informal economic sector can use equity funds.
The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union president Ath Thun took issue with the minister’s claims.
He said many people are unemployed, among them scholars and university students. And even if they were employed, he said their jobs were not of economic significance.
“The 90 per cent employment rate figure provided by the government includes vendors, moto-taxi and tuk-tuk drivers and people who run small businesses. The government should not focus on that too much,” he said.
Thun said the government should take a more realistic approach if it wanted to boost employment in the Kingdom.
He called for the creation of a business-friendly environment that provided youths and local enterprises a chance to foster entrepreneurship and subsequently create more jobs.
He said such an approach could draw skilled workers to local enterprises, which in turn increased productivity and discouraged them from migrating to other countries for jobs.
Tun Sophorn, national coordinator for the International Labour Organisation in Cambodia, supported Thun’s position.
He said the government should put more focus on the economic significance of their employment.
“The quality of their job is a matter of utmost importance . . . Unemployment statistics are low but among the workforce aged 15 to 65, the problem is not unemployment itself. It boils down to the quality of employment,” he said.
He said there are still many poor people in the Kingdom. Although they are employed, they still live below the poverty line. Sophorn urged the government to provide more social and legal protection for those who are employed in the informal economic sector.