Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted and honored to participate in this launching ceremony of the National Policy on Employment 2015-2025, which is very relevant to the current context of Cambodia.
On behalf of the Royal Government and myself, I deeply commend and appreciate the leadership and all levels of officials of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training and of relevant ministries/institutions as well as worker, employee and employer organizations for the cooperation and effort to formulate this important policy document. Overall, I am delighted and proud that this National Policy on Employment has been formulated with ownership and responsibility by Cambodians – comprising old, middle-aged and young intellects who are well equipped with competence, energy and creativity.
Taking this opportunity, I deeply thank development partners especially International Labor Organization, European Union and Sweden International Development Cooperation Agency for providing support and inputs to the formulation of this Policy.
The launch of this National Policy on Employment is a necessary response for implementing the Rectangular Strategy-Phase 3 which has prioritized the development of the national employment policy aimed to ensure sustainable growth, better living standards and social harmony through creating decent and productive jobs for the people. In addition, the launch of this Policy interrelate and complement the recently launched Cambodia Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025 which envisages not only modernizing and transforming the industrial structure from labor-intensive into a skill-based industry, but also transforming the currently low value added into a high value added industry with enhanced competitiveness and productivity.
Overall, during the last two decades, we not only manage to maintain political stability and sound macroeconomic management, but also ensure progress in all sectors be it political, economic or social sectors. The distribution of the fruit of growth to everyone, especially employment opportunities, all kinds of infrastructure and enhanced revenues have played an instrumental role in the poverty reduction. At the same time, through our effort and prioritization of investment in human capital, which is the key socio-economic foundation, we are able to create additional jobs for 20 to 30 thousands of new workforce that enter the job market every year. On this basis, unemployment rate has been reduced to below 1%. In addition, women, youth, persons with disability and the vulnerable have been given higher job opportunity. Moreover, to enhance the work environment to be consistent with international standard, we have spearheaded the region by ratifying thirteen international labor conventions, including the eight core conventions and the linkage of trade to work condition through better factory program in Cambodia.
Along with this, to enhance employees’ living standards through transparent negotiation mechanism and scientific approach, the Royal Government has led a tripartite negotiation, developed principles and formula for calculating minimum wages accepted by all parties. On this basis, minimum wage for garment workers will increase from USD128 to USD140 per month in 2016. To include all other benefits, each worker will earn at least between USD157 and USD168 per month.
Moreover, the proud achievement in public financial management reform has resulted in revenue increase along with strengthened public spending at allocating, technical and operational levels. Through this, apart from pay rise and timely disbursement to civil servants, members of armed forces, pensioners especially teachers and medical staff through the banking system in week four of each month, we have also reformed salary system and structure to provide additional incentives and benefits to civil servants. To enhance the living standard of civil servants, workers and employees in private sector, the Royal Government has amended the taxation law by upping the tax-free income threshold to 800 thousand Riels, subsidizing electricity and water connections for workers and students in rent houses, pushing for reduction in fuel prices and initiating law for regulating house renting and so on.
These highlight the Royal Government’s high and constant attention to employment and living standards of the people.
We have identified some challenges that must be addressed in the employment sector as follows:
First, a big chunk of the employment growth come from agriculture and informal sectors due to our narrow growth base that relies heavily on construction, agriculture, garment and tourism that absorb, in addition to a limited level of skilled labor, sizable unskilled labor that can become low skilled workforce with experience.
Second, the necessity to equip our young low-skilled workforce with skills to enable them to compete in the job market characterized by dynamic and diversified economic system and the need to provide opportunities to youth working in or leaving the agriculture sector to work in other sectors.
Third, the necessity to increase investment in health, education and training in rural areas, to strengthen sectoral and sub-national policy coordination, and analysis of job market, and timely dissemination mechanisms, to enhance work environment in the prioritized sectors aimed at ensuring decent incomes for skilled and experienced workers;
Fourth, preparation for fully capitalizing on movement of skilled, semi-skilled and low-skilled labor that can cause demographic imbalance in the ASEAN Economic Community by managing negative impact on domestic workforce and emigrant workers through adopting job market and social protection measures;
Fifth, prevention of rapid loss of competitiveness caused by inconsistent increase of domestic wage and productivity that can lead to labor emigration;
Sixth, the necessity to strengthen industrial relation and job market institutions to be effective and harmonized in order to settle disputes and distribute economic benefits between workers, employees and employers.
To overcome these challenges and fully capitalize on the above-mentioned potentials aimed at ensuring sustainable growth, the Royal Government has formulated and launched the National Policy on Employment 2015-2025 by envisaging three milestones: (1) enhancing job opportunity and productivity, (2) enhancing skill and human resource development, (3) strengthening governance of the job market.
In particular, to align with Cambodia Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025, the National Policy on Employment will not only guide the development of employment sector, but also act as a common framework for all relevant institutions to coordinate their activities toward common goals with clear division of responsibility.
The launch of this Policy document is an easy step, but the real challenges are awaiting us in the actual implementation. In this spirit, to ensure active and effective implementation of the National Policy on Employment, I instruct the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training to work closely with relevant ministries/institutions to regularly monitor and analyze the macroeconomic condition once a year by focusing on creating decent and productive job opportunities. Among that, the ministry needs to organize policy dialogue, inter-ministries forum to discuss about the progress of creating decent and productive job opportunities.
In addition, the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training must act as government’s agency to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the implementation and prepare semester and annual reports on progress and challenges against objectives and indicators laid out in the Policy to the Royal Government.
Along with this, we need to prepare an action plan by laying out specific timeframe, measurable indicators and estimation of needed resources for implementation this Policy corresponding with Cambodia Industrial Development Policy 2015-2025.
Before ending, I instruct relevant ministries/institutions and urge employers, worker unions, professional bodies, development partners, especially ILO to continue supporting the implementation of the National Policy on Employment 2015-2025 with goodwill, conscience, ownership and responsibility to ensure the successful implementation as expected and help strengthen Cambodia’s economic foundation as well as socio-economic development.
Finally, along with the launch of the National Policy on Employment 2015-2025, I wish excellencies, ladies and gentlemen the four Buddhist blessings – longevity, nobility, health and strength.