The inter-ministerial committee has approved the 2020 progress report on the National Employment Policy while Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Sam Heng lauded the government’s various achievements despite the Covid-19 crisis.

The approval came during the sixth meeting of the inter-ministerial committee, which is tasked with leading the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the National Employment Policy 2015-2025 on December 22.

The meeting – held via videoconference to review and evaluate the progress of the policy’s implementation in light of the challenges posed within the Covid-19 context – was attended by ministry representatives, capital-provincial officials and representatives of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Sam Heng, who also chairs the committee, said that despite the Covid-19 impact on the country’s socio-economy, relevant ministries and institutions are still striving to fulfil their roles responsibly in order to achieve the three pillars of the policy.

The three pillars of the policy are increasing employment opportunities and productivity, promoting the development of skills and human resources and strengthening labour market governance.

According to the labour ministry, progress was made in maintaining macroeconomic stability, approval of investment projects such as the 195 new qualified projects and 43 projects expanding production with the potential to create 151,000 jobs.

In addition, the government has undertaken modernisation reforms improving business registrations, payment for public services and receiving registration certificates automatically through online portals.

According to the progress report for 2020, Cambodia provided technical and vocational training to 18,494 students and informal training to 19,727 others. The government also implemented a bridge training programme with a total of 3,400 students while collecting and disseminating information on job recruitment from 184,808 sources.

The government also prepared a report providing labour market updates while offering career and vocational counselling services to 6,238 job seekers while registering 17,202 of them with employment recruiters.

Moeun Tola, executive director of the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (CENTRAL), was sceptical about the ministry’s claimed successes over the course of the pandemic.

He said that in 2020 and 2021, Covid-19 has seriously affected developing and poor countries including Cambodia and the conditions of employment and lack of jobs are causing huge difficulties.

“The employment situation has been difficult and it remains so. I understand that we are dealing with a public health crisis and trying to keep people safe and it’s great that Cambodia is one of the leading countries in the region and the world in terms of vaccinations, but workers continue to struggle economically with no clear end to these troubles in sight,” he said.

Tola said that in order for Cambodia to transform and enhance its industry from its focus on labour-intensive work to a skilled labour job market, the government must focus on finding the right policies to encourage the transformation. This could include strengthening the agricultural sector by expanding the processing market to create a local workforce for that step of the supply chain.

“And the government needs to start developing an action plan to bring home over one million Cambodian migrant workers who are labouring in countries like Thailand by creating good jobs for them here,” he said.