Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged state institutions to create as many as one-and-a-half million new jobs per five-year mandate. He also described the “hard and soft” foundations that the government is building to attract capital to the Kingdom.

He issued the call as he met with factory workers at Manhattan Special Economic Zone in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town, on June 25.

“In a given year, between 200,000 and 300,000 jobs are needed. Our goal is to make sure that figure is 300,000 a year, as that will match the birth rate,” he said.

He explained that the “hard” foundation the government is building includes roads, bridges, ports, airports and hydroelectricity stations that will supply the industrial sector and encourage investment. The “Soft” foundation includes the passing of laws that make it easier to incentivise investors.

He said that in August, the state will start providing vocational training to 1.5 million vulnerable youth.

“A strong, motivated and highly skilled workforce will add to the Kingdom’s attractiveness as an investment destination,” he added.

Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng noted that the job market is currently in a strong position, with an employment rate of 99.3 per cent among the estimated 10.8 million members of the workforce.

He added that 17,256 manufacturing enterprises were registered with the labour ministry, and employed nearly 1.5 million workers.

“In 1997, Cambodia was home to just 64 factories and enterprises in the garment sector. They employed about 8,000 Cambodians, and earned $227 million in exports. Last year saw exports of about $13 billion,” he said.

Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW) president Pav Sina supported the government’s efforts to create jobs, suggesting that more vocational training centres should be established. He believed the government’s training programmes were not yet sufficient to meet the demands of the growing number of youth who had dropped out of school without employable skills.

“Students need to learn general soft skills as well as job-specific knowledge. This means they will be more likely to be able to meet the needs of the job market when they graduate,” he explained.

He added that the government should pay close attention to improving working conditions, so employees do not suffer from coercion or exploitation, or have their rights violated.