Decent Employment for Youth in Cambodia Programme (Phase 2)

Thousands of young Cambodians are benefitting from “Decent Employment for Youth in Cambodia – DEY”, now in its second phase from 2020 to 2023. Under this programme, four UN Agencies are supporting young women and men to obtain decent and productive employment through being better prepared to meet labour market demands and for quality employment.

TVET students practicing their session on NTTI campus, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. © ILO

Implementing agencies

Cambodia has the fourth largest youth population in the South-East Asia region (UNDESA, 2020). According to the General Population Census of the Kingdom of Cambodia 2019, one in six Cambodians was between 15 and 24 years old and more than a quarter of the population was at the age of between 15 and 29. Seventy per cent of young people aged 15-29 were economically active in 2019. Furthermore, young people aged 15-29 made up a major part of Cambodia’s working-age population (37 per cent). A structured survey of young people aged 15-24 that was conducted as part of the “Youth Situation Analysis in Cambodia” (December 2020), indicated that 59 per cent of those surveyed were not in employment, education or training (NEET).

Demographic dividend provides major opportunity for youth employment

The proportion of young people within Cambodia’s population grew faster than the overall population from 2008 to 2019 (37 per cent compared to 16 per cent, NIS, 2020). This frees-up resources for investment and family income growth (World Bank, 2018), providing the basis of the “demographic dividend” which is highlighted by the Cambodia Rectangular Strategy IV 2019-2023 as one of the major opportunities for progressing Cambodia’s long-term development objectives. However, maximizing the benefits of the demographic dividend will require: (i) increased decent work creation to absorb the estimated 160,000 young women and men who enter the job market each year (World Bank, 2019), (ii) comprehensive workforce skills development to meet labour market needs at a time of rapid technological and structural change in Cambodia’s economy, and (iii) improved quality of work for young people in the country. Despite the very low rate of youth unemployment, the quality and stability of employment remain a big concern in Cambodia. 

DEY II - responding to Cambodia’s youth employment challenges

Following remarkable achievements in a two-year initial phase, the “Decent Employment for Youth in Cambodia – DEY” (known as “DEY II) is now implementing its second phase for a period of four years (2020-23). Four United Nations Agencies are jointly implementing the programme. These are the ILO (convening agency), UNESCO, UNICEF and UNIDO, with the continuous strategic support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and contributions of other funding partners. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Volunteers (UNV) were also among the implementing partners in phase one of the programme.

The youth employment challenges being specifically addressed by DEY II are clustered into four key areas: (i) the systemic skills deficit within Cambodia’s youth population at a time of rapid technological change; (ii) the mismatch between labour market requirements and the skills of young people; (iii) the need to strengthen entrepreneurship and business ecosystem as a source of employment and livelihood; and (iv) high levels of informality, vulnerability and inadequate quality of work.

DEY outcomes

Carrying on from phase 1, DEY II supports young women and men in Cambodia to access decent and productive employment opportunities by ensuring they are better able to meet labour market demands and are prepared for quality employment. To support this overarching goal, DEY II aims to achieve the following outcomes:
  1. Young women and men in Cambodia have demand-driven skills and competencies, including soft; life; and green and digital skills which are relevant to current and future labour market needs.
  2. Young women and men in Cambodia have adequate entrepreneurial capacity and increasingly access business development services.
  3. Young women and men in Cambodia are able to make career decisions based on relevant knowledge and support services for decent and productive employment.

DEY benefits and targets

DEY II aims to provide direct benefit to 170,900 youths (of whom 50 per cent are female) by 2023 through industry-driven skills and competencies development, basic education equivalency and literacy in factory, entrepreneurship and enterprise development training and support, employment services, and youth rights at work awareness raising programmes.

Within this youth population, DEY II is expected to support 3,000 young women and men to obtain employment/self-employment. Of these, 1,000 will be in formal employment and 200 will be in formal self-employment, with decent monthly earnings at least equal to the minimum wage of Cambodia’s garment and footwear sector for employment in manufacturing sector, or a 10 per cent increase in the baseline salary for the employment in other selected sectors.

Supporting implementation of Cambodian Government employment policies

Through its efforts to achieve these targets, DEY II is contributing to the implementation of the National Employment Policy 2015-25; the National TVET Policy 2017-25; the Industrial Development Policy 2015-25; the National Policy on Youth Development 2011; and the respective National Action Plans of these policies.

The programme also contributed to the implementation of the Cambodian Government’s policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular in the areas of education and training, employment and incomes. This contribution continues in the pandemic recovery phase.

Maximizing impact through a clear focus

DEY II focuses on four sectors which are bundled into two main clusters: (i) Tourism and Agro-business; and (ii) Construction and Manufacturing. While policy support initiatives by DEY II will benefit young people nationwide, DEY II focuses its programme implementation in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and their surrounding provinces such as Kandal, Takeo, Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Kampong Cham, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey.

While contributing to decent employment opportunities and access for all young women and men, DEY II further prioritizes vulnerable young women and men in school and out of school as its ultimate beneficiaries. This vulnerable group includes those in informal work; labour migrants (external, internal and returnees from abroad); persons with disabilities; indigenous communities and other ethnic minorities; LGBTQI persons; persons living with HIV; those from and living in the rural settings of the target geographical locations; and those affected by COVID-19.

Aligning with the wider UN effort in Cambodia

The goal of DEY II is fully aligned with one of the outcomes of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2019-23 for Cambodia. This outcome aims to ensure that “by 2023, women and men in Cambodia, in particular the marginalized and vulnerable, benefit from expanded opportunities for decent work and technological innovations, and participate in a growing, more productive and competitive economy, that is also fairer and environmentally sustainable.”

Furthermore, young people aged between 15 and 30, who are the target group of DEY II, have been identified as one of the four key accelerators or catalytic programme areas that seek to trigger positive multiplier effects across the UNDAF outcomes, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Cambodia’s own set of SDGs which have been adapted to the national context (known as the Cambodian SDGs, or CSDGs). This underlines the importance of DEY II’s contribution to the work of the United Nations in supporting the realization of Cambodia’s development outcomes, the SDGs and the CSDGs, in particular through the efforts of the four DEY II Participating United Nations Organizations (PUNOs).

DEY budget

The total budget for DEY II is US$9.26 million. Funding for this budget consists of a US$4.06 million contribution from SDC; and US$5.20 million contributions from the DEY II participating agencies, other funding partners, the private sector and the Royal Government of Cambodia.

For further information please contact:

Ms Socheata Sou
National Project Coordinator