YOUNG Cambodians face increasingly daunting prospects for entering the Kingdom’s labour market, the UN said in a report released today.
The report, titled “Situation Analysis of Youth in Cambodia”, was prepared to coincide with Saturday’s UN Day and is being launched at a ceremony this morning at the National Institute of Education. UN resident coordinator Douglas Broderick said that though the report also contains sections on health, education, rights and vulnerability, many of its most urgent recommendations focus on the issue of youth employment.
“This is the biggest issue affecting young people,” he said. “Cambodia has a young and vibrant workforce, but they lack the skills and training to achieve their full potential.”
People ages 10 to 24 currently comprise 34.7 percent of the Cambodian population – more than 300,000 leave school and look for work each year, and youth participation in the labour force is among the highest in the region, according to the report. However, recent economic growth has largely depended on a few key sectors: garments, construction and tourism, and these sectors are ill-equipped to further absorb large numbers of workers.
John McGeoghan, project manager at the Phnom Penh office of the International Organisation for Migration, said that Cambodia must account for the potential social dislocation that occurs when young people migrate from rural to urban areas in search of employment.
“What we are concerned about, perhaps in terms of trafficking, is that there are significant numbers of young people who don’t have a social network,” he said.
The UN analysis also noted this trend, though it emphasised the importance of expanding Cambodia’s labour capabilities in the agricultural sector, as the earning potential for youths entering the labour force is significantly lower in rural areas than it is in Phnom Penh.
Officials from the Ministry of Labour could not be reached for comment Thursday. In August, however, Ministry of Labour Director General Heng Sour told the Post that the government is currently sponsoring a job training programme supporting 40,000 people, 30,000 of whom are studying agricultural vocations.
“We are observing whether the economic crisis will continue and whether this training will be enough,” he said, adding that the Ministry of Economy and Finance will consider whether or not to renew this programme at the end of the year.
These sorts of initiatives, Broderick said, are crucial for the Kingdom to meet the challenge or a burgeoning working-age population.
“Establishing programmes and opportunities for young people to develop work-related skills, such as more school-based vocational training, apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and opportunities in civil service ... is essential,” he said.