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The challenge of getting a job in Cambodia

Unemployment in Cambodia is very low, but that’s because the vast majority of the population works in the informal sector. The government hopes ILO-backed job centres will help increase access to decent work.

Feature | 19 July 2012
BATTAMBANG, Cambodia (ILO News) – Vann Dara, 27 uses half his salary to help support his six siblings and the other half to finance his own studies.

In a county where the vast majority of the population works in the informal sector, getting a steady job that pays a regular salary is no easy feat – and Dara says a government-run employment centre made it possible. For the past two years, he has worked as a marketing officer at a sauce factory in Makara 13, a village in north-eastern Cambodia.

He earns the equivalent of $80 a month, a salary that finances his studies at the University of Management and Economy (UME) in Battambang, and helps keep his brothers and sisters in school.
Video: Cambodia's Employment Injury Insurance Fund

“If there were no Job Centre, I would be having difficulty getting a job because I am still studying and have no work experience,” says Dara.

The Battambang Job Centre is one of five set up by the National Employment Agency, as part of a strategy to help tackle unemployment, and particularly vulnerable employment. The government plans to expand the number of centres to 24.

The ILO has provided technical training and financial assistance for the initiative, as well as advice on ways to develop the potential of private employment services.

Although the official unemployment rate is low – at 1.6 per cent – more than 80 per cent of workers are in vulnerable employment, such as unpaid family work and own-account work, according to an ILO-backed 2010 report by the Cambodian National Institute of Statistics.

The Job Centres link jobseekers to potential employers or vocational training institutions, provide online job listings, and can be used for job interviews and training sessions.

Making the transition to work easier

Soeun Phikun, a 29-year-old UME graduate, also has high praise for the employment agency, which helped her get a job at the Korean-owned Kogid Cambodia company.

“I was unemployed for two years after my graduation from the university in 2009,” she says. “I found work via the Job Centre in my district and could get a good salary.” She earns $250 a month. Kogid Cambodia PLC’s general manager, Moon Jung Hoon, says recruiting was a problem when he first set up shop in Battambang. At the time, he had to travel nearly 400 kilometres to the capital Phnom Penh to advertise jobs in the newspapers.

In 2010, the Battambang Job Centre invited the company to list job openings, free of charge. Moon says the Centre also helped screen applicants by matching the jobseekers’ skills with prospective employers’ needs.

In 2011, Kogid Cambodia PLC recruited 20 employees through the Centre and plans to recruit more as it expands. “The main objective of the Job Centre is to find jobs from local, private or foreign companies or non-government organizations for people in the province. It is also to promote economic growth, social development and poverty reduction,” says Mom Pov, team leader of the Battambang Job Centre.

Since the Centre was established in 2009, more than 2,000 jobseekers have registered. Three hundred of them have found jobs, while more than 300 employers have posted job openings. At least 60 people visit the Centre every day to get employment advice.

“I hope that this project will help the Cambodian government boost the country’s economic growth and reduce poverty,” says Nuon Rithy, national consultant of the ILO’s Regional Job Centres in Cambodia.

Written by Kong Kea, IPS Asia-Pacific reporter