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Jobs plentiful, but wages low for Kingdom’s youth

Two students look at a job announcement board for employment in Phnom Penh earlier this year.
Two students look at a job announcement board for employment in Phnom Penh earlier this year. Hong Menea

Jobs plentiful, but wages low for Kingdom’s youth

While unemployment rates are low among Cambodian youths, their jobs are largely poorly paid and informal, providing them with just enough money to survive on, according to a recent report.

The report, released on Sunday by youth NGO the Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP) and the Ministry of Labour, found that Cambodians aged 15 to 30 have an unemployment rate of just 2.5 per cent.

However, 67.5 per cent of those employed survived on “self-employment” – essentially working odd jobs in the Kingdom’s vast informal economy – while only slightly more than 50 per cent had any kind of defined salary.

The average take-home income for youths stands at about $100 a month, according to YRDP director Cheang Sokha, an amount he said “cannot help them develop their family or the country’s economy”.

“We want the youth to strengthen their capabilities ahead of the ASEAN Economic Community” in January 2016, he added.

The report, which compiled statistics from the government, the YDRP and the International Labour Organization, indicates that the low incomes came partly from the predominance of the nation’s agricultural sector, where wages tend to be most irregular.

About 47 per cent of Cambodia’s 4.3 million youths work in agriculture, significantly higher than in the service sector, which employs about 30 per cent. Industry and manufacturing jobs accounted for about 22 per cent of young people, according to the report.

Och Chea Chan Molika, an adviser to the National Employment Agency, said the report underlined the importance of improving young workers’ skills.

“Youths must have job skills to have a proper salary. We urge youths to study and get job training rather than dropping out of school,” she said.

Despite the widespread availability of some forms of low-end work, another survey published in August indicated that unemployment was the highest source of worry for young people.

About half of the 630 people surveyed said not finding a job was their top concern, but since most of those surveyed were students, their definition of a job was largely confined to the formal sector.

Seng Van, a 25-year-old who works as a volunteer at a radio station he declined to name, said the pay was low, but it was all he had time for to stay in university.

“I can make $50 a month,” he said.

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