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Near-zero unemployment in Cambodia, claims Labor Minister

Mom Kunthear / Khmer Times Share:
Jobs in the garment industry are expected to increase. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Labor Ministry proclaimed yesterday that unemployment was nearly eradicated in Cambodia after a recent study showed that less than one percent of citizens remained without jobs.
 
Labor Minister Ith Samheng said in the Tripartite Annual Review of Decent Work Country Program for Cambodia 2016-2018 yesterday morning that 99.3 percent of Cambodians were employed, which was akin to there being zero unemployment in the kingdom.
 
“The data of Cambodian people who have jobs is very high, so we can say almost everyone has a job. All that’s left is only 0.7 percent who do not have work,” he said.
 
This was a marginal increase from an International Labor Organization (ILO) annual world employment outlook released in January, which showed Cambodia’s unemployment rate as being 0.5 percent.
 
He added that more than one million Cambodians worked overseas in countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Japan, and sent up to $1.7 million back to their families annually.
 
According to Mr. Samheng, there were now 1,150 garment and footwear factories in Cambodia, a 10 percent increase from last year, with 720,000 people employed in the sector. There are also 1.2 million people working in other industries like entertainment and services sectors.
 
“I think the garment industry will see an increase, so the job opportunities for our citizens, especially for young people, will increase as well,” he said.
 
ILO national coordinator for Cambodia Tun Sophorn said there was an improvement in overall employment, but three sectors still needed work – the improvement of industrial relations and rights at the workplace, the promotion of favorable work environments as well as the improvement of social protection for the health and safety of employees.
 
The report, which was a collaborative effort between the ministry, ILO and various other labor groups, did not detail how they classified employed and employed Cambodians nor did it reveal its methodology.
 
However, a local media organization quoted a 2013 ILO working paper as saying that anyone with paid employment for one hour a week, or those working without pay at a family business or farm, are deemed as being employed.
 
The report also quoted political analyst Ou Virak as saying that this methodology, which is employed in developed countries to measure the status of the job market, is ineffective in developing nations.
 
“It’s a huge methodological problem also because if you are just helping your family in their mom-and-pop store by replacing your mom so she can go to the market – it doesn’t add much to employment,” Mr. Virak said.
 
The contentious methodology has resulted in Cambodia having one of the best employment rates globally, second only to Qatar. The kingdom ranks higher than developed nations like Singapore, Japan, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands.
 
The report also quoted ILO country director Maurizio Bussi as saying that the figures presented in January, with Cambodia’s unemployment coming in at 0.5 percent, was accurate but added that the larger issues was the “earnings they get from this work is low.”
 
The wage for garment workers this year, one of the largest employers in the kingdom, was increased to $153 this year after repeated calls and protests from workers and unions to pay them a livable wage.
 
The latest World Bank data also showed that poverty was improving with 17.7 percent being classified as poor after the country exited the low income bracket in 2015.
 
However, it noted that “the vast majority of families who escaped poverty were only able to do so by a small margin” with 8.1 million of its then 14.86 million population still struggling to make ends meet.

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