Like most people his age, 22-year-old Eng Angkeara wants a job. A fourth year student at the National Institute of Business working toward a degree in banking, he hopes that by the time he graduates at the end of the year, he will find employment and start earning a wage.
Two months ago, Mr. Angkeara, who lives in Phnom Penh, was surfing the Internet when he stumbled across information about a government-run job center that would help him do just that.
“It was an accident,” he said, explaining how he found out about the Ministry of Labor’s Phnom Penh Job Center, which he hopes will land him a job someday.
“There is only a small number of people aware of the website,” he said. “I think they should disseminate the information better in schools.”
In November 2009, the Ministry of Labor launched four job centers to respond to the large number of students and laborers who found themselves unemployed due to the global financial crisis.
But two years later, the centers are still underfunded and understaffed. Though more than 300,000 young people are entering the labor force each year, the four job centers—Siem Reap City, Phnom Penh, Kampot City and Battambang City—registered just 7,707 people as seeking work. Of that figure, just 560 found positions, according to the National Employment Agency (NEA), a body created by the Labor Ministry to oversee the centers.
General laborers made up 11.5 percent of the 560 people for whom the centers found jobs, marketing accounted for 19.7 percent, while education and training 13.4 percent.
Kim Keoreaksmey, chief of administration and finance at the NEA, said the job centers can only afford to have about five staffers at each of the existing branches. With a fifth center due to open in Svay Rieng province later this month, officials at the NEA say that the centers are located in remote areas with little foot traffic. What is more, the Ministry of Labor allocates just 400 million riel, or $100,000, a year for the entire program.
While more educated city-dwellers like Mr. Angkeara can find out about the centers via the Internet, the centers mainly rely on commune chiefs to disseminate information about their services.
“Not many people come here to register because of the location. It is very hard to find,” Mr Keoreaksmey said, referring to Phnom Penh’s job center, which is in Sen Sok district on the outskirts of the city.
Nuon Rithy, a national consultant with the International Labor Organization, which helped the government set up the centers in 2009, said there is a demand for the services of a national job center.
“But not so many people registered because the job center is new and the information is not really made public to the people,” he said.
Sandra D’Amico, managing director of Hr Inc, a recruitment consultancy firm, and vice president of the Cambodian Federation of Employers and Business Association, said there is a demand from employers too.
“The NEA is very new, and a very important development in Cambodia to match the supply and demand in the market…especially for new companies coming in and looking for workers,” she said.
According to a report released by the UN Development Program in August, Cambodia’s labor market faces glaring lack of trained workers. While the country needs more trained engineers and tertiary workers, thousands of students are qualifying every year with degrees in management and business.
Vong Visoth, director of human resources at luxury hotel Sofitel, Phnom Penh Phokeethra, said yesterday that for one job, the Phnom Penh Job Center will send them 20 to 30 candidates. But because of the general lack of experience they will sometimes be forced into hiring somebody based on potential alone.
“For example, we are looking for an accountant, and we get candidates with experience in sales, reception, or from other areas,” he said. “A lot of them are not experienced, it is a problem. But it is the same problem at other companies and hotels.”
Still Mr. Visoth said that Sofitel had hired about 30 workers sent to them from the government-run job center.
“When we hire, we see that some candidates are eager to learn and have potential and are quick learning, so we focus on that,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey)