ILR School

Promoting Women's Economic Empowerment in Cambodia

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[Excerpt] Four emerging trends are of particular concern in promoting women’s economic empowerment in Cambodia: (i) the predominantly young population and the growing number of labor force entrants, which pose a challenge to providing decent work for all; (ii) competition from more highly skilled labor in neighboring countries given regional integration; (iii) increased volatility of employment with a high reliance on export markets that are vulnerable to global shocks; and (iv) vulnerability to climate change, which particularly affects agriculture. The obstacles to women’s economic empowerment in Cambodia include (i) the amount of time required to fulfill responsibilities in unpaid domestic and care work; (ii) women’s low levels of literacy, education, and skills; and (iii) a lack of access to resources necessary for economic empowerment, e.g., in agriculture, business development, and wage employment. Cambodia is experiencing high rates of labor migration, and nearly 60% of rural migrant women move to Phnom Penh. There is a clear gender division of occupations for migrant workers, with most migrants working in in the garment industry and as self-employed business owners, and a significant amount working in the services and entertainment sectors or as domestic workers. Women migrants have lower average earnings and send more money home than their male counterparts, which means that women migrants receive less benefit from their work both in terms of direct earnings and in terms of what remains after remittances. The analysis in this report leads to a series of policy recommendations in seven areas: 1) addressing the unequal unpaid domestic and care work burden of men and women to enhance women’s human capital; 2) increasing women’s access to the assets and resources that enhance agricultural and rural livelihoods, e.g., land, labor, and human and financial capital; 3) supporting a business enabling environment that recognizes women’s specific constraints and increases women’s access to assets and resources that enable business development and expansion; 4) supporting growth of wage employment opportunities and improving working conditions for women, through stronger enforcement of revised laws and regulations and access to training for women; 5) reducing the risks and enhancing the benefits of migration for women; 6) enhancing social protection for women to reduce vulnerability; and 7) enhancing MOWA and line ministry capacity to design and implement gender- responsive plans to promote women’s economic empowerment.

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Cambodia; women; economic growth; employment; migrant workers; labor market


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Required Publisher Statement: © Asian Development Back. Available at ADB’s Open Access Repository under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY 3.0 IGO).



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