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Speeches & Transcripts November 22, 2019

Opening Remarks on Cambodia’s Future Jobs

Excellencies, honorable government officials, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen

Good morning

I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you — representatives of the government, civil society, the private sector, academia, and the media — to today’s launch of the World Bank report entitled: Cambodia’s Future Jobs: Linking to the Economy of Tomorrow. We are very pleased to have you here, to see so many sectors represented here today, which attests to the importance of the jobs agenda in Cambodia. 

The story of Cambodian jobs is a crucial chapter in the story of Cambodia’s economic success of recent years. Policymakers and economists in Cambodia and elsewhere recognize accomplishments such as Cambodia achieving 7 percent GDP over more than two decades and   persistently declining poverty rates, yet jobs are the mechanism through which individual people see the benefits of this progress. People gain when their job opportunities diversify, when their wages and income increase, and when their job quality rises. 

Cambodians are hard workers. There are 8 million jobs in Cambodia, employing 80 percent of Cambodian adults. As Cambodia has embraced a development strategy increasing its exposure to international markets and foreign investments, the Cambodian private sector—and particularly exporting industries—has expanded its production and the number of quality job opportunities it offers to workers. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of wage jobs increased by 12 percent per year, and one-third of all wage jobs were in foreign-owned firms.

However, as successful as Cambodia’s development model has been at delivering more and better jobs, and without a doubt, it has been very successful, it is now time to reflect on how to sustain these gains in the long term. The global economy is changing, it is more uncertain, and new mega-trends—from a growing Asian consumer class and shifting trade patterns to automation and the industrial revolution 4.0—will alter the ways in which global market forces shape Cambodian jobs. 

The Royal Government of Cambodia clearly understands the importance of policies to unlock the jobs potential of the Cambodian economy, as this goal aligns well with those defined the Fourth Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity, and Efficiency. 

And we in the World Bank Group, share this jobs vision, which is consistent with the emphasis we have placed on fostering human development and boosting private sector growth in our joint Cambodia Country Partnership Framework for 2019-2023.

Considering this shared vision for a future that continues to provide more, better, and more inclusive jobs to Cambodian workers, the World Bank Group is honored to have been invited by the Royal Government of Cambodia to produce the report Cambodia’s Future Jobs: Linking to the Economy of Tomorrow. This study is the first to paint a comprehensive picture of Cambodia’s job ecosystem, bringing together the expertise and perspectives on jobs from specialists from across disciplines: poverty, macroeconomics, private sector development, industry, trade, skills, and labor. Our team of economists delved into the data, pulled lessons from other countries, consulted with public, private, and civil society in Cambodia, and summarized their findings and recommendations in the report that you see before you today. 

In writing this report, our key mission was in identifying impactful, feasible, sustainable, and measurable policies that would enable and prepare Cambodian workers to benefit from the economic forces that will shape the future economy. The sector-specific and economy-wide policies described in detail in the report can be grouped into a four-pronged strategy:    

  • First, Cambodia should diversify its exports and move into higher value-added segments of value chains in order to increase the quality job opportunities available in the export sector.
  • Second, the quality of jobs in domestically-owned firms, including household enterprises, must be improved. The private sector will need support to boost enterprise productivity, and to enable small and medium firms to grow and create more jobs. 
  • Third, the links between foreign- and domestically-owned firms must be strengthened, so that each sector benefits from the growth and progress of the other.
  • Finally, Cambodia must invest in its workers and in workers’ skills. Improving workers’ skills will attract foreign investment and increase labor productivity. Not only will this underpin future economic growth, it will also increase the economic gains that will go to Cambodian workers. 

Although Cambodia has made progress in terms of educating the labor force, Cambodian jobs are becoming more skills -intensive and are increasingly requiring a mix of soft and hard skills. This will demand the education system to develop and provide a range of skills valued by the labor market, including cognitive, socio-emotional and digital literacy skills.  Therefore, I am glad that the Cambodia Future Jobs report’s recommendations in its skills strategy are also supplemented by the findings of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize Education’s Promise, which highlights strategies to create systems and environments conducive to learning.  

Excellencies, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen

As I mentioned earlier, the diversity and quality of jobs in Cambodia has gradually improved. But global trends, such as the growing Asian middle class, shifting trade patterns, and automation require that Cambodia re-think its jobs strategy as it advances to the next stage of export-led development.

Finally, and importantly, the success of Cambodia’s job strategy will depend on the participation and cooperation of stakeholders across the economy, not only policy makers and government leaders, but also entrepreneurs, investors, development partners, and, of course, the workers themselves. 

We hope that today’s event can advance a constructive dialogue around jobs and Cambodia’s future economic development, and we hope that the Cambodia’s Future Jobs report will inspire all actors with a hand in shaping Cambodia’s economy to work together today to lay the groundwork that will guarantee the jobs success of tomorrow.   

Thank you