TRIANGLE in ASEAN – Cambodia

The ILO TRIANGLE in ASEAN is a partnership between the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Global Affairs Canada (GAC), and the International Labour Organization (ILO). TRIANGLE in ASEAN delivers technical assistance and support with the overall goal of maximizing the contribution of labour migration to equitable, inclusive and stable growth in ASEAN.

Programme objectives

TRIANGLE in ASEAN has the overall goal of maximizing the contribution of labour migration to equitable, inclusive and stable growth in ASEAN. It builds on the activities, relationships and processes established under previous phases of the programme.

Programme outcomes

  • Protection: Migrant workers are better protected by labour migration governance frameworks;
  • Development: Policies and programmes harness the potential of women and men migrant workers to contribute to economic and social development and
  • Mobility: Labour mobility systems are gender-responsive and increase the efficiency of labour markets in the ASEAN region.

Labour migration

Cambodia is a major country of origin for migrants, with over 700.000 living abroad in 2019 (UNDESA). Most seek work outside of the country due to lack of sufficient employment opportunities available domestically and the significant wage differentials of employment overseas. The primary destination country for Cambodian migrant workers is Thailand, with workers commonly migrating into the fishing, agriculture, livestock, construction, manufacturing and service sectors, including domestic work.

Only a small proportion of these workers use regular channels to migrate due to the high cost, considerable time investment, and administrative complexities involved. According to a survey conducted by the ILO and IOM, less than a third of Cambodian migrants use regular channels to migrate, with the majority relying on social networks and unlicensed brokers (53 per cent) to go abroad. (ILO and IOM, 2017).

Since 2010, the Republic of Korea has become the second most popular destination for regular Cambodian migrant workers. Cambodia also has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Japan, but far fewer migrants travel there for work, likely due to the technical requirements of the Industrial Training Program and Technical Internship Program. MOUs with the governments of Kuwait and Qatar were signed in 2009 and 2011 but so far, no Cambodian migrant workers have been sent through these channels.

Bilateral agreements on deployment of domestic workers abroad have also been signed with several destination countries, including Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. However, these agreements have proven contentious, with reports of abuse and exploitation of domestic workers recorded in all countries where Cambodian domestic workers are employed. In response, the Cambodian Government suspended ‘first-time’ migration to Malaysia for domestic work in 2011. After several years of bilateral negotiation between Cambodia and Malaysia, an MOU to resume deployment of domestic workers was signed in 2015. However, the restriction remains officially in place pending agreement on standard operating procedures for sending domestic workers abroad (ILO, 2017).

The Cambodian Labour Migration Policy and Action Plan (2019-2023) outlines the Government’s commitment to leveraging the benefits of labour migration for the country’s long-term development. The policy is unique within South-East Asia in applying a holistic and multi-ministerial approach to labour migration governance.

For further information please contact:

Mr Veth Vorn
National Project Coordinator (NPC) for Cambodia
Tel.: +855 12777264
Email: vorn@ilo.org