National Bank of Cambodia director-general Chea Serey on Wednesday warned the Kingdom’s youths of wasted opportunities and job losses in the future if they fail to constantly upgrade their skills.
Serey was speaking via an online video discussion under the theme, Addressing Skills Gap for a Resilient Youth in the Era of Covid-19 and Beyond. The virtual forum was joined by nearly 200 youths and experts from the government and civil society organisations.
Young Cambodians, she said, should strengthen their technical skills to keep pace with the rapidly evolving world as Cambodia reaches a turning point in the Covid-19 era.
She said a bulk of business transactions have moved online since the outbreak of the virus, while many brick-and-mortar businesses continue to shut down.
“Young people need to study and seek more knowledge to keep up with the times and the evolution of the world because our skills alone are not enough. Our youths need to absorb new knowledge to respond to the current situation,” she said.
Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications secretary of state Kan Channmeta said youths should shift their focus from low-skilled labour to non-labour-intensive skills. He said learning technology-related skills can be highly beneficial as there is demand in the sector.
“Our approach is to encourage young people to study day and night, no matter what the circumstances, because our youth are full of energy and intelligence,” he said.
Channmeta said that branching off from labour-intensive jobs will diversify work opportunities for youths.
According to the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) post-discussion report, two-thirds of Cambodia’s population is under the age of 30. The unemployment rate of the working population (15-64 years old) is 0.2 per cent for women and 0.3 per cent for men.
However, the UNDP said the low unemployment rate does not reflect an accurate picture of the situation because of the quality of employment.
It said that over 85 per cent of the working population are employed in low-skilled, labour-intensive work, and over 51 per cent of jobs in Cambodia are unstable and do not offer regular salaries.
The UNDP said Cambodia’s education system and its labour market are at odds with the rapidly evolving technology-driven economy and this could create an uncertain job future for youths.
“The arrival of Covid-19 has worsened the situation. Youths are disproportionately affected by the crisis, with multiple shocks, including disruption to education and training. They have lost employment and income, and face greater difficulties in finding jobs,” it said.
Yan Sok Eng, a youth who participated in the discussion, said she understood the importance of strengthening young peoples’ skills and work capacities to be better equipped to succeed in the post-Covid world.
She said capacity-building could lead to better job opportunities and help youths avoid risks as companies close and lay off employees.
“I’m interested to continue developing my work capacity. I believe youths need to be innovative and proactive. Foreign languages and knowledge of technology must be prioritised too,” she said.