There is a huge and growing shortage of jobs for young Cambodians. Although there
is no accurate data available, the World Bank estimates that 200,000 more young Cambodian
become jobless every year.
According to Ok Serei Sopheak, an independent democracy consultant, nearly 30,000
of these are from higher educational institutions. "Some are graduates looking
for work, others are looking for work to fund their continued studies. The figure
seems very high, but it is my best estimate after consulting a number of NGOs working
in this field," he said.
He was also concerned that 60 percent of the country's youth currently depend on
farming for paid employment or food.
"The lack of farmed land forces them to move to the city to look for work,"
That situation could lead to political problems. "Without jobs, there will not
be peace in the society," he said.
Sopheak believed that youth problems would be a hot issue in the campaign for the
2008 national elections.
According to World Bank figures, around 70 percent of the 13 million resident population
are under the age of 29 .
"The youth of this country must make the government realize the scale of this
problem," Sopheak said.
Seventy students from several universities in Phnom Penh met with the local youth
associations on July 3 to discuss the problem.
The Khmer Youth Camping for Culture (KYCC), Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP)
and the World Bank shared Sopheak's fears that youth unemployment could lead to problems,
mentioning more unrest and crime as possible results.
YRDP executive director Cheang Sokha and KYCC-representative Chhoun Borith said they
have been working together to get youth issues on the new government's agenda.
Sokha said the government's efforts to reduce poverty would fail as long as unemployment
was on the rise.
"Some government officials who are old enough to retire keep the jobs that could
be employing young people," he said.
Mu Sochua, former Minister of Women's and Veterans Affairs, told the Post that the
government has been trying to create 300,000 new jobs every year but only reached
16 percent of the target.
She said Funcinpec would be responsible for labor issues in the new coalition government
and that Funcinpec president Prince Norodom Ranariddh had promised to encourage skill
training for young people.
Sokha also said that the new coalition government must take measures to increase
investor confidence in government policies.
The World Bank had stated it would develop a framework to increase private investments
in Cambodia over the next four years.
"Improving the private sector it is a way of providing job opportunities,"
the WB said. "We need to establish and encourage ways to involve youth more
in the decisions that affect the country's future role in addressing corruption,
and improving governance."
Sopheak said the private sector in Cambodia was not yet strong enough to respond
to the job demands.