Employment-intensive construction worksThe ILO has promoted employment-intensive works technology in Cambodia as an effective means to improve essential rural infrastructure and create jobs since 1992. In that first year, the ILO introduced this technology to rehabilitate Cambodia's secondary and tertiary roads. Work began in the North-West provinces as part of the process to resettle returning refugees, supporting efforts to rebuild their livelihoods. Local roads were upgraded to access rural communities and farmlands, increase access to basic services and improve security. The employment generated from the works provided returnees with valuable income during the initial stage of their resettlement. During the 1990s, the ILO constructed and maintained some 800 km of rural roads using employment-intensive work methods. It also rehabilitated some 90 km of irrigation canals, and participated in clearing and cleaning the environs of the Angkor Wat World Heritage Site.
This programme included a comprehensive training programme for engineers, technicians and supervisors, starting already in the refugee camps, and continuing in Cambodia, building capacity at the centre as well as in the provincial administrations. Equally, technical support was provided to engineering and rural development courses at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia.
The success of the strategies applied in the reconstruction works resulted in a number of donors initiating similar projects applying the technology introduced by the ILO. The competitiveness of the technology applied in the rural road works was later confirmed by a study comparing the costs and employment generation potential between the use of labour-based technology and conventional methods using heavy construction equipment.
In 2006, the Mainstreaming Labour-based Road Maintenance Pilot Project, funded by the Government of Cambodia and the Asian Development Bank through its Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction demonstrated how the application of employment-intensive road works technology could be applied in road maintenance and at the same time reduce poverty through the additional employment created. The ILO provided implementation support and training to local government staff, construction firms and communities in periodic and routine road maintenance works.
A central part of the technical support was to establish sound practices for the application of low-cost bituminous surfacing of secondary and tertiary roads. The project introduced low-cost bituminous surface seals using innovative specifications making effective use of locally available natural gravels as aggregate, instead of more expensive and scarce crushed stone transported from long distances at high costs.
Starting in 2021, the project “COVID-19 socio-economic recovery for returning migrants and host communities in North West Cambodia” supports job creation through the improvement of local infrastructure in remittance dependent communities in Siem Reap and Battambang Provinces. Funded by the Government of New Zealand, the project applies employment-intensive work methods, thereby offering new employment opportunities and income to poor and vulnerable households to mitigate recent job losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the project area experiences recurrent floods, there is a high focus on strengthening climate resilience through adaptation measures such as improving drainage systems, raising road embankment levels, surface repair and erosion protection.
Village development works
In 2007, the ILO introduced its local resource-based approaches to upgrade infrastructure at village level. A pilot project rehabilitating basic infrastructure in low-income settlements in Battambang improved access roads, streets and footpaths, drainage, water supply, sanitation, flood control, playground facilities, installed street lighting and introduced better solid waste management arrangements. Works were carried out engaging local contractors and employing local labour from the village.
On the basis of the work in Battambang and elsewhere, a set of guidelines was prepared on how such services could be provided through an approach relying on the use of local resources and community participation.
Local Level Planning
As part of the ADB funded North-western Rural Development Project, the ILO supported the introduction of Integrated Rural Accessibility Planning (IRAP) between 2002 and 2006. This project component assisted the Ministry of Rural Development and local authorities in applying IRAP as a rural infrastructure planning tool.
The technical assistance team worked with provincial authorities in Battambang, Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey and Oddar Meanchey to identify investment priorities in rural infrastructure and public services. The ILO support also provided capacity building support to the Planning Department and the Rural Roads Department in MRD for the planning and monitoring of rural road works.
Employment and investment policies
In 2008, the ILO provided support to the development and formulation of the National Social Protection Strategy for the Poor and Vulnerable in Cambodia. This strategy aimed to establish a national social protection floor with universal access to basic health care and primary education and establishing a minimum level of income security. One of the main instruments to achieve income security was a proposed national public works programme applying employment-intensive work methods. Capitalising on the experience from past rural development programmes, this public works programme was designed to provide jobs and income for poor and vulnerable households and at the same time create sustainable infrastructure assets which would support their economic and social development - and which could be expanded when mobilising efforts to deal with reconstruction after natural disasters.
The EIIP assisted the Council for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) lead by the Ministry of Interior (MoI) to develop and design this component in close collaboration with other development partners, most notably WFP, DFAT and ADB.
Within the context of the National Social Protection Strategy, the ILO carried out a study on labour availability and appropriate wage rates for employment-intensive public works programmes in Cambodia. The survey was supplemented with household surveys carried out in collaboration with the Cambodia Development Research Institute (CDRI).