A challenge facing Cambodia: Inadequately trained human resources

question-mark-2492009_1920Despite some progress in promoting and fostering social and economic development and growth, many substantial challenges lie ahead for Cambodia. Some are legacies left by the past armed conflicts and political instability, while others are new problems created by factors such as population growth, financial deficiency, and globalization. One of the challenges that Cambodia needs to overcome is the issue of inadequately trained human resources.

We all know human resource development and enhancement is an integral part of the solution to overcoming many social and economic challenges. As a matter of factly, investing in human capital is a major reason  behind the rapid social and economic development of many developing countries including many countries in East Asia (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China) and Southeast Asia (Singapore and Malaysia). In an appropriate way, the educated citizens of these countries have helped transform their countries from extremely poor nations after World War II to economic tigers in a very short time (Castells, 2009).

Presently, human resource capacity in both the public and the private sector remains the greatest bottleneck in Cambodia’s development efforts. Only less than 2% of the population has had any form of training beyond high school (NIS, 2009). The country needs a more qualified and adaptable labour force to promote stronger governance, institutions, and civil society and to deal with a range of other key issues such as environmental management, poverty alleviation, the provision of education and health care, growth, and globalization.

The Cambodian government thus urgently needs to invest more in education by putting in place a long-term strategy that aims at human capital and human resource development at all levels. It needs to improve the low quality of education, high drop-out and repetition rates, low research capacities in higher education institutions, mismatch between labour supply and demand, low labour productivity, and lack of both soft and hard skills. A concerted national effort should focus on improving education and skills, especially among Cambodia’s emerging middle class and predominantly young rural workforce.

Unquestionably, higher education is expensive. An attempt to ensure quality education for all citizens will not be easily achieved. However, investing in education, especially higher education, is essential. A good higher education system may help Cambodia tackle its human resource deficit. So the country needs some clear steps to improve its higher education subsector. The sector deserves continuous attention and support from society.


Castells, M. (2009). Lecturer on higher education. Unpublished manuscript, University of Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa.

National Institute of Statistics. (2009). General population census of Cambodia 2008: National report on final census results. Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Author.

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