It's a myth that salaries in Cambodia are low."
"It's a big meat market out there."
That's not the kind of advice corporate recruiters looking to do business in Cambodia
like to hear, but salaries in Cambodia are skyrocketing.
A recent example of salary levels came to light with the October 2 release of a UNDP
audit report of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia that found monthly
salaries of $2,300, $2,850, $3,520, $4,300, and $5,300, are being paid to Cambodians
working at the war crimes tribunal.
While those salaries may be extreme, other local salaries are high too - and rising
Human resources consultant Sandra D'Amico, whose company HR Inc. has been tracking
wages in Cambodia for three years, is currently conducting its third salary survey
in partnership with CAMFEBA, The Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Associations,
and the CCFC, the Chambre de Commerce Franco-Cambodgienne.
Over the past few years, the consultants have done small surveys in a handful of
industries including the garment sector, microfinance and NGOs. The new survey is
expected to be broader.
D'Amico, interviewed in her bustling second floor shophouse office on Sothearos Blvd,
said wages for managers and skilled technical staff are jumping because of talent
shortages in almost every industry.
"From a recruitment perspective, the market is incredibly tough for employers,"
D'Amico said. "Employers have to be very smart about retention at the management
With economic growth at 10.5 percent last year and projected at 9.5 % for 2007, the
Kingdom is creating new jobs in many areas. But many companies are still bringing
in managers from Asian neighbors - Singapore or Malaysia, for example.
With the high demand for skills and the shortage of talent, the well-qualified can
now demand a premium. Sometimes sign on bonuses are being offered.
"Imagine earning $200, then after three years $500. Move to management at $800
and then ... $1,750. People don't move in increments here," said D'Amico. "They
"We've tried recruiting at the management level. Salaries start at $1,000 and
go all the way up. People are not moving up in percentages. Young professionals are
earning $5,000 a month. It's a myth that salaries are low in Cambodia. It's a big
meat market out there. The problems you face is once you groom them, boom, they leave.
You've got to be creative about compensation. It's a hard market."
The shortages exist in many industries. Medicine (including doctors, pharmacists,
nurses), software engineering, project management, telecommunications engineering,
finance, are a few. D'Amico said finding good management skills is the biggest problem.
Why is there such a shortage? Should the educators be responsible for coordinating
curriculums with the job market?
Raymond Leos, a dean and professor on the Faculty of Communication and Media Arts
at the 10,000-student Pannastra University of Cambodia, said Pannastra is trying
harder to add practical skills to the curriculum to match graduates with jobs. D'Amico
also said a new program is underway to try and coordinate employer needs with youth
Meanwhile starting salaries for graduates still cover a wide range, from $80 a month
"Our star kids are getting between $200 and $300 a month and they're ecstatic,"
said Leos, adding: "This is the crème de la crème, kids with 4.0
Whether the NGOs and organizations like the UNDP are running up salaries should be
more clear when the new salary survey is complete. But meanwhile the new UNDP audit
report sheds some light on what the sector is paying.
It cited a translator with part-time previous experience who was still studying for
his degree who was being paid $3,500 a month. A press officer was paid $31,900 in
the court's first year.
The audit harshly criticized the salaries and recommended that all of the contracts
should be nullified and a new recruitment process launched.
However, the Cambodian side of the ECCC called the recommendation "completely
out of proportion to the issues raised."
The report said a problem with the ECCC salaries was that the ECCC used a flawed
salary-setting formula. They decided to calculate Cambodia salaries at "50 percent
of international salaries." The formula failed to take into consideration that
the tribunal already had an agreement that staff would be exempt from income tax.