Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

2006 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cambodia

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 31 August 2007
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2006 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cambodia, 31 August 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48d7492723.html [accessed 20 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Selected Statistics and Indicators on Child Labor
Percent of children 5-14 estimated as working in 2001:44.8%758
Minimum age for admission to work:14/15759*
Age to which education is compulsory:Not compulsory760
Free public education:Yes761
Gross primary enrollment rate in 2004:137%762
Net primary enrollment rate in 2004:98%763
Percent of children 5-14 attending school in 2001:69.5%764
As of 2003 primary school entrants likely to reach grade 5:60%765
Ratified Convention 138:8/23/1999766
Ratified Convention 182:3/14/2006767
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes768
* Laws are inconsistent

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

In 2001, approximately 45 percent of boys and 44.6 percent of girls ages 5 to 14 were working in Cambodia. The majority of working children were found in the agricultural sector (76.5 percent), followed by services (17.7 percent), manufacturing (4.9 percent) and other sectors (0.9 percent).769 Children work in hazardous conditions on commercial rubber plantations, in salt production, in fish processing, in portering, in brick making,770 and as rubbish pickers, on tobacco plantations, and in making handicrafts. Children also work processing sea products; breaking, quarrying or collecting stones; in gem and coal mining; and in restaurants.771 Children, primarily girls, also work as domestic servants. Most of these child domestics are girls 14 to 17 years old, though it is not uncommon to find them as young as 8 or 9. They typically work 12 to 16 hours a day, 7 days a week.772

Cambodia is reported to be a country of origin, transit, and destination for trafficking in children for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor,773 including begging. Cambodian children are trafficked to Thailand and Vietnam; and Vietnamese children are trafficked to Cambodia for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor in begging, soliciting, street vending, and flower selling.774

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Law sets the minimum age for employment at 15 years,775 although a later 1999 ministerial decree sets the minimum age at 14 years.776 The law allows children 12 to 15 years to perform light work that is not hazardous and does not affect regular school attendance or participation in other training programs.777 Cambodian law prohibits work that is hazardous to the mental and physical development of children under 18, including in agriculture and domestic work.778 Employers who hire children less than 18 years are liable to a fine of 31 to 60 days of the daily wage.779 The law also prohibits hiring people to work to pay debts.780 The law lists 38 types of hazardous work, such as tanning, logging, using chemicals in textile production, etc., in which children under 18 are not permitted to work. The law separately identifies domestic work as hazardous, states that children under 12 shall not carry out domestic work, and sets guidelines for children 12 to 14 undertaking domestic work. Night work is generally prohibited for children.781 The law also states that no one under 18 shall work in underground mines or quarries, or work from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Lists of working children must be kept by employers and must be submitted to labor inspectors, and children who have parents or guardians must have their consent in order to work.782

The Constitution prohibits prostitution and the trafficking of human beings.783 Penalties for brothel owners, operators, and individuals who prostitute others include prison terms of between 10 to 20 years, depending on the age of the victim.784 The law also stipulates 10 to 15 years of imprisonment for traffickers and their accomplices. If the victim is under 15 years old, violators face penalties of 15 to 20 years of imprisonment. Acts of debauchery are outlawed, and although the legal definition of debauchery does not explicitly include pornography, the courts have prosecuted several cases of child pornography under the law.785

The law prohibits all forced or compulsory labor.786 The minimum age for conscription into military service is 18 years.787

The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MOLVT) is responsible for enforcing the child-related provisions of the Cambodian Labor Law.788 However, the Labor Law only applies to formal employer-employee relationships and does not cover many areas of informal sector work such as family businesses and farms, begging, scavenging, hauling, day labor, the commercial sex industry, or participation in any illegal activities, where the most serious child labor problems exist.789 No employer has ever been prosecuted for violating child labor laws.790 Local police are responsible for enforcing laws against child trafficking and prostitution.791 According to the U.S. Department of State, although the government has increased arrests and prosecutions of traffickers and has increased the number of prevention and protection programs, anti-trafficking efforts continue to be hampered by reported corruption and a weak judicial system.792 During 2006, the police arrested 670 offenders including 65 arrests for cross border and domestic trafficking.793 Thirteen foreign nationals were arrested for debauchery between March 2006 and January 2007.794

Current Government Policies and Programs to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor

The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, and Youth Rehabilitation (MOSAVY) Action Program 2004-2008 places strong emphasis on child welfare and protection. Specific goals include combating child labor and trafficking, developing national plans, and improving enforcement mechanisms for violators of child labor and trafficking laws.795 The Government of Cambodia is undertaking a final assessment of its first 5-year plan against trafficking and sexual exploitation of children in order to finalize and implement its second 5-year plan (2006-2010).796

Along with Burma, Laos, the People's Republic of China, Thailand, and Vietnam, Cambodia is signatory to the "Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking (COMMIT)." Two agreements were signed in 2006, pledging USD 1.8 million to the COMMIT process. The contributions will fund COMMIT activities to ensure the legal, social, and community protection of victims of trafficking; strengthen the capacity of persons combating the crime of trafficking; and build a comprehensive response involving all relevant ministries.797 During the "Civil Society and Government Collaboration to Combat Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Subregion" conference, which took place in May 2006, government and NGO representatives adopted an action plan consisting of 19 recommendations to combat human trafficking.798 In November 2006, the Ministry of Women's Affairs established a single National Task Force to implement all agreements and MOUs between the Government of Cambodia and other countries on the elimination of trafficking in persons and assisting victims of trafficking.799

There are several governmental agencies that have ongoing programs to address the needs of children vulnerable to exploitation in the worst forms of child labor. The Ministry of Tourism continues to work with the ILO to promote "Child Safe" tourism policies to prevent trafficking of women and children for labor and sexual exploitation.800 The Ministry of Interior operates an anti-trafficking hotline.801 MOSAVY works with UNICEF and IOM to return trafficked children to their homes. The Ministry of Women's Affairs launched an anti-trafficking information campaign in five northeastern provinces in January 2006.802

The Government of Cambodia is participating in a USD 4.75 million USDOL-funded Timebound Program supported by ILO-IPEC to eliminate child labor in specified worst forms and to create a platform for eliminating all forms of child labor. The program targets children involved in brick-making, portering, rubber-making, domestic work, salt production, fish processing, and services. It targets 7,270 children to be withdrawn from work and 8,660 to be prevented from engaging in child labor.803 Cambodia is also part of a USDOL-funded global project that aims to substantially reduce the engagement of children in the worst forms of child labor.804 The government is also participating in a 4-year, USDOL-funded USD 3 million project that focuses on providing education opportunities to those children who have been or have the potential to be trafficked.805 The project, which was launched in 2003, targets 13,500 children at risk of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking. The project works in the provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Cham, and Prey Veng, as well as Phnom Penh.806 USDOL also funds a USD 500,000 project to assist in the reintegration of trafficked women and children. The project provides a range of counseling, training and rehabilitation services to girls and women in the Phnom Penh area.807

The U.S. Presidential Anti-Trafficking in Persons Initiative allocated USD 5.6 million to support programs to combat trafficking in Cambodia through 2006.808 In addition, in August 2006, USAID committed USD 4.5 million over three years to combat trafficking.809 Cambodia also participates in a project supported by ASEAN and AusAID on the elimination of trafficking in women and children in four Southeast Asian countries and China's Yunnan Province.810

Starting in 2006, AusAID is also providing funding for several activities in Cambodia. The "Mobilizing Communities for Child Protection" project and "A Child Safe Cambodia" project will work to protect the rights of children against commercial sexual exploitation and abuse. These projects total almost USD 3 million and will last through 2010.811 In addition, AusAID has committed to provide USD 15.8 million over the next 5 years to combat human trafficking in four countries including Cambodia.812


758 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates, March 1, 2007.

759 Government of Cambodia, Cambodian Labor Law, (March 13, 1997), Article 177 (1); available from http://www.bigpond.com.kh/Council_of_Jurists/Travail/trv001g.htm. See also U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, August 30, 2005.

760 U.S. Department of State, "Cambodia," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2006, Washington, DC, March 6, 2007, Section 5; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78769.

761 Ibid. See also U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, December 28, 2006.

762 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Gross Enrolment Ratio. Primary. Total, accessed December 20, 2006; available from http://stats.uis.unesco.org/.

763 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Net Enrolment Rate. Primary. Total, accessed December 20, 2006; available from http://stats.uis.unesco.org/.

764 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Attendance Statistics, December 20, 2006; available from http://stats.uis.unesco.org/.

765 UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Survival Rate to Grade 5. Total, accessed December 18, 2006; available from http://stats.uis.unesco.org/.

766 ILO, Ratifications by Country, accessed June 16, 2006; available from http://www.ilo.org/ilolex/english/newratframeE.htm.

767 Ibid.

768 ILO, IPEC Action Against Child Labour – Highlights 2006, Geneva, October 2006; available from http://www.ilo.org/iloroot/docstore/ipec/prod/eng/20061018_Implementationreport_eng.pdf.

769 UCW analysis of ILO SIMPOC, UNICEF MICS, and World Bank surveys, Child Economic Activity and School Attendance Rates.

770 ILO-IPEC, Support to the Cambodian National Plan of Action on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour: A Timebound Approach, project document, Geneva, September 2004, v. See also ILO-IPEC, Combating Child Labor in Hazardous Work in Salt Production, Rubber Plantations, and Fish/Shrimp Processing Centers in Cambodia, project document, Geneva 2001.

771 ILO, UNICEF, and World Bank, Children's Work in Cambodia: A Challenge for Growth and Poverty Reduction, 2006, 22; available from http://www.ucw-project.org/pdf/publications/cambodia_rpt.pdf. See also Antonio Graceffo, The Children of the Garbage Fields of Phnom Penh, [online] [cited March 20, 2006]; available from http://www.talesofasia.com/rs-36-garbage.htm.

772 ILO, Child Domestic Labour in Cambodia: Why It Has to Stop and How We Can Stop It, Phnom Penh, 2004; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/library/download/pub04-12.pdf.

773 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh official, E-mail communication to USDOL official, July 31, 2007.

774 U.S. Department of State, "Cambodia (Tier 2 Watch List)," in Trafficking in Persons Report – 2006, Washington, DC, June 5, 2006; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2006/65987.htm. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Cambodia," Section 5.

775 Government of Cambodia, Cambodian Labor Law, Article 177(1).

776 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, August 30, 2005.

777 Government of Cambodia, Cambodian Labor Law, Article 177(4).

778 Ibid., Article 177(2). See also U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, November 6, 2003.

779 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting March 5, 2007.

780 Government of Cambodia, Cambodian Labor Law, Articles 15-16.

781 Ibid., Articles 175-176.

782 Government of Cambodia, Prakas on the Prohibition of Hazardous Child Labor, Prakas No. 106, (April 28, 2004).

783 Government of Cambodia, Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, (September 21, 1993), Article 46; available from http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/cb00000_.html. See also Law on the Suppression of the Kidnapping, Trafficking and Exploitation of Human Beings, Royal Decree No. 0296/01, (1996).

784 Law on the Suppression of Kidnapping, Article 3.

785 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, August 30, 2005.

786 Government of Cambodia, Cambodian Labor Law, Articles 15-16.

787 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, "Cambodia," in Child Soldiers Global Report 2004, London, 2004; available from http://www.child-soldiers.org/document_get.php?id=848.

788 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, August 23, 2004.

789 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, November 6, 2003. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Cambodia," Section 6d.

790 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, August 30, 2005.

791 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, August 23, 2004. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Cambodia," Section 6d.

792 Ibid. See also U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, March 5, 2007.

793 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2006: Cambodia," section 5.

794 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, March 5, 2007.

795 Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MOSAVY) Kingdom of Cambodia's Ministry of Social Affairs, Action Program 2004-2008.

796 ILO, Cambodia Reviews Five Years of Counter Trafficking Efforts-Prepares for New Plan of Action, [online] May 19, 2005 [cited May 19, 2005]; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/child/trafficking/index.htm. See also World Education, OPTIONS: Combating Child Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation through Education in Cambodia, technical report, September 30, 2005, 5. See also U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, March 5, 2007.

797 Human Trafficking.org, Two Agreements Pledging U.S. 1.8 Million to COMMIT process, [online] May 29, 2006 [cited June 27, 2006]; available from http://www.humantrafficking.org/updates/349.

798 Vital Voices Global Partnership, Email communication to USDOL official, June 19, 2006.

799 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, March 5, 2007.

800 Ministry of Tourism and ILO, Ministry of Tourism of the Kingdom of Cambodia and ILO Team Up to Advocate Promotion of "Child Safe" Tourism Policies to Prevent Trafficking in Children and Women, September 22, 2005; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/child/trafficking/downloads/camtourismnews.pdf. See also ILO-IPEC, Mekong Sub-Regional Project to Combat Trafficking in Children and Women, [online] [cited April 4, 2007]; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/child/trafficking/index.htm.

801 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, August 30, 2005. See also ILO-IPEC, Mekong Sub-Regional Project.

802 Human Trafficking.org, Anti-Trafficking Campaign to Begin in Cambodia, [online] March 2005 [cited March 14, 2006]; available from http://www.humantrafficking.org/countries/eap/cambodia/news/2006_01/campaign_begins.html.

803 ILO-IPEC, Support to the Cambodian National Plan of Action on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour: A Time-bound Approach, project document, Geneva, September 2004.

804 Winrock International, Child Labor Reduction through Community Based Education, [online] [cited January 31, 2007]; available from http://www.winrock.org/fact/facts.asp?CC=5519&bu=.

805 World Education, OPTIONS: Combating Child Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation through Education in Cambodia, status report, March 2006.

806 U.S. Department of Labor, Technical Cooperation Project Summary: OPTIONS: Combating Child Trafficking Through Education, Washington, DC.

807 U.S. Department of Labor, Technical Cooperation Project Summary: Reintegration of Trafficked Women, Washington, DC.

808 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, August 23, 2004.

809 HumanTrafficking.org, U.S. Promises Funding to Counter Human Trafficking in Cambodia, [online] [cited January 31, 2007]; available from http://www.humantrafficking.org/updates/442.

810 Australian Embassy Bangkok, AusAID Program in Thailand Overview [online] May 2005 [cited May 20, 2005]; available from http://www.austembassy.or.th/agency/ausaid/overview_eng.php.

811 Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Aid Activities in Cambodia, [online] [cited November 3, 2006]; available from http://www.ausaid.gov.au/country/cbrief.cfm?DCon=1061_5593_9716_8236_8498&Coun...

812 Child Trafficking Research Hub, Australia to Help Fight Human Trafficking in Asia, [online] 2006 [cited September 21, 2006]; available from http://www.childtrafficking.org/cgi-bin/ct/main.sql?file+view_news.sql&h2=-1&AUTHOR=-1&THES...

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