While Cambodian migrant workers find themselves employed in many corners of the globe, South Korea stands out for its abundance of well-paid job opportunities. Thanks to the excellent working conditions and generous wages, many of the migrants are able to enhance the well-being of their families back home.

San Sokhan, who is currently employed in South Korea, shares with The Post that his monthly earnings of $2,000 to $2,500 not only support buying land for a plantation and settling bank loans for his family, but also contribute to raising his young child in his homeland. 

He says that his income also allows for a comfortable lifestyle in South Korea, with ample time and money to take short leisure trips on his days off.

The diligent young man, originally from Kampong Cham province, explains that in addition, he is now able to send money home to his family to help cover wedding expenses and illnesses.

“My income makes a significant difference. Back in Cambodia, I struggled just to make ends meet, barely affording the basics. Working in South Korea not only allows me to take care of myself but also to assist my family members.

“I’ve bought land and supported my mother-in-law in building a house, though I sometimes feel I haven’t managed to provide enough for them,” he says.

The regular remittances he sends also allow his family to tend to and harvest their cashew tree plantation. It is flourishing, thanks to the attentive care they can now afford. 

“When I send them money, it goes towards buying necessary materials for the plantation. I don’t expect anything from them – I’m just offering a helping hand.

“My remittances helped them purchase the plantation land. Thanks to my financial support, they can tend to the farm daily. In the past, when we had no money, we were forced to borrow from the bank,” he adds.

“We’re gradually repaying the bank loans. Despite ongoing instalments, I’ve ensured the financial stability of the plantation when I return,” he explains.

Prosperity journey

Pich Vireak, who earns up to $1,700 each month in Korea, underscores the advantages of his stint working overseas. The first is the alleviation of financial concerns, which brings him peace of mind. The second is the facilitation of practical purchases.

“I have been able to lift my family out of poverty. In addition, I will have a new home and capital to start my own business upon my return to Cambodia. Working in South Korea also lets me support my parents with monthly remittances. That’s one of the best parts of my experience,” he says.

Ma Srenich, another worker, shares that her average monthly income of $1,600 in Korea alleviates many financial burdens for both her and her family back home.

In the past, she says, helping her family was challenging. Now, her income allows her to support her siblings’ education and lighten her mother’s burdens. She has even been able to provide her mother with enough funds to start a business, giving her economic self-sustainability. 

“Not only can I save some of my income for a rainy day but also use it to open a small business upon my return home, so I can sustain myself,” she says.

Vital remittance flow

Kata Orn, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, tells The Post that the ministry has documented over 1.3 million Cambodians working abroad. Annually, they send home more than $2.7 billion in remittances, a significant contribution to the Kingdom’s economic development.

Phon Pheap, a resident of Kampong Chhnang province, shares that his son, who recently started working in Korea, has so far sent home limited funds. The bank transfers have been used to repay a loan and cover essential expenses.

He also mentions another son, who is employed in Japan. Despite the remittances being modest, the money helps alleviate the family’s financial burdens. He directs the funds towards medication, fertiliser and insecticides for his rice paddies. 

“The money helps us with various expenses – buying necessities and occasionally covering our food costs,” he says.

Chey Tech, an independent socio-economic analyst, tells The Post that typically, the money sent home by migrant workers is utilised for buying food, constructing homes, acquiring land or expanding businesses. This financial support serves as both an investment and a stimulus for the country’s economy.

“It’s worth remembering that migrant workers in more advanced countries receive higher wages. The increase in Cambodian workers in Japan and Korea, for example, has seen large sums being sent home. This income allows their families to expand existing businesses, and the new skills the workers acquire overseas can be applied to future commercial endeavours.

“That said, prioritising working conditions for profitability is crucial,” he says.

“This necessitates increased government efforts in negotiations with the other friendly countries where our people seek employment. We should aim for improved working conditions, social protection systems and higher incomes. This will prevent our workers from becoming a burden and ensures a positive, long-term impact of Cambodians working overseas,” he adds.