Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng claimed that more than 60 per cent of women in Cambodia are business owners or entrepreneurs, a rate he said is three times higher than the US.

Samheng made the remarks during a February 28 virtual meeting with the ministry’s women civil servants ahead of the 111th anniversary of International Women’s Day on March 8.

“Currently, further development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has become a stumbling block. SMEs should become a source of long-term economic growth and job creation,” he said.

Samheng said the challenge for inclusive and sustainable business development was to ensure that businesswomen have the opportunity to not only recover their businesses, but also to develop their resilience.

“We must consider this while we introduce means and measures to support SMEs – in the digital age and in response to the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said.

Studies have shown that the spread of Covid-19 has a greater negative impact on women than men, both economically and socially – especially those in developing countries, he said, adding that this was largely because women were more likely to work in the service sector or the informal economy.

“In this context, the government has put measures in place that directly benefit women and vulnerable groups, especially through social protection policies and social assistance interventions,” he said.

“These measures include increasing the budget allocated to helping workers whose work has been suspended and social enterprise programmes to help rehabilitate and promote SMEs.”

The spread of Covid-19, he noted, has become an opportunity to focus on the implementation of social protection programmes as a safety net and to build a strong socio-economic base in the future.

“We need to continue to strengthen social protection measures and expand their reach to all parts of society, both in and out of the informal economy, and to focus on achieving universal health coverage, which aims to ensure equitable access for all citizens,” he said.

Cambodia’s celebration of International Women’s Day is aimed at emphasising the value of achieving gender equality for development in all areas. It also urges all stakeholders to continue to implement specific policy measures and programmes that promote gender equality and empower women. This is particularly important under the post-Covid-19 socio-economic recovery agenda and adaption to the “new normal”, he said.