Unemployment is the top worry for Cambodian youth, according to a survey released on Friday.
Almost half – 49 per cent – of 630 people surveyed across the country cited unemployment as their main concern in the survey conducted by the Youth Committee for Unity and Development, a coalition of Cambodian youth associations.
Thol Dyna, a researcher at the Analyzing Development Issues Center (ADIC) who authored the study, said worries about unemployment were mostly due to poor education quality, low salaries and few formal job opportunities.
“Most of them are still in high school or university. High school students are concerned over their future, while university students are especially concerned with finding a job immediately,” he said.
Dyna said that “youths” were defined as men and women from the ages of 15 to 35, while respondents came from five regions: Phnom Penh, Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri, the border areas of Poipet and Banteay Meanchey, and Kampong Thom.
Quality of education ranked as the second-largest apprehension for youth, with 30 per cent of respondents citing a lack of schools and qualified teachers.
Concerns about security came in last, with 21 per cent of respondents saying drug use, criminals and traffic accidents were their largest worries.
“We hope that our research will help the government or another national institute to find solutions to the issues our youth face, because young people are the main resource for the country’s development,” he said.
Chek Lim, deputy director general of the youth department at the Ministry of Education, said the conclusions offered a way for the government to develop the country’s youth.
“We want to know clearly about youth’s concerns, so that the ministry later on can further define its action plan to target [the demographic],” he said.
Even if youth unemployment is a significant concern, gauging its scale is “difficult to know in the absence of meaningful data”, said Chan Sophal, director of the Centre for Policy Studies.
According to the World Bank, Cambodia’s youth unemployment rate in 2013 was only 0.7 per cent.
“The informal economy is quite significant,” said Sophal.
“[Youth] always have some work to do with relatives, or, especially right now, the construction sector is booming thanks to the real estate sector.”
Sophal said that nevertheless, university graduates and other pre-professionals were faced with a “mismatch in skills”, with too many studying business or management and too few choosing more technical fields, such as engineering.