Prime Minister Hun Manet has encouraged people to have more children, as according to the Ministry of Planning, Cambodia is projected to have an aging population by 2050.

Manet made the suggestion while meeting with nearly 20,000 factory workers in Takeo province’s Bati district on September 19.

“The day before the first Pentagonal Strategy policy planning meeting, we were discussing population science. The planning ministry has forecast that our country will have an aging population by 2050. We have to study this carefully, as 2050 is just 27 years away, and it is also the target year for us to become a high-income country. By then, we would have more elderly people than young ones if population issue was not addressed,” he said.

“If this data is correct, our scientific policy framework must be reconsidered, because 27 years from now is not far away and we need to ensure full employment for many years to come,” he added.

Manet said he had discussed the issue with Chinese Premier Li Qiang during his recent official visit, noting that while China is the world’s second-most populous nation, it has an aging population.

He explained that this was because China set its one-child policy in the past, allowing each family to have only one child. But even as China has allowed people to have more children, not enough couples are doing so.

“Several other ASEAN countries also have this problem. In Singapore and Japan, the population is starting to decline. If we want to see our population increase, we need to start now. We cannot wait until 2050. If we do, there will be too few people who are keen on starting families,” he said.

“Because the cost of raising children is high, especially for city-dwellers, the number of births is decreasing, but we need to encourage them to have more children. If they wait until 2050, the cost of raising children will be as high as it is in other countries,” he explained.

Pa Chanroeun, president of the non-profit think-tank Cambodian Institute for Democracy, said the encouragement is a good thing, but suggested that the state introduce appropriate policies to support and encourage parents, as raising children today is different from what it was like 10-20 years ago.

“Raising children today is costly. Our society and culture are changing. In the past, mothers were always at home to look after their children, but now they have to go to work together to earn money to support expenses and make a decent family life,” he said.

According to Chanroeun, the cost of child healthcare is particularly high, along with the cost of education. Although the state provides basic education up to Grade 9 or 12 free of charge, some parents do not believe in the state education system and opted to send their children to private schools.

“As long as there is support and an appropriate environment, then Cambodian parents should be encouraged to have as many children as the prime minister suggests,” he added.

In 2019, then Minister of Interior Sar Kheng suggested that families have an average of five children, in order to double the Kingdom’s population. He noted that the country’s land area was large enough to support the population increase.

He said at the time that many countries in the world were beginning to fear a lack of population growth, especially in countries with growing economies, and this made some people reluctant to have children because they were occupied with their job.