Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cambodia

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 10 September 2009
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2008 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cambodia, 10 September 2009, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
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
Population, children, 10-14 years, 2003-2004:1,817,863
Working children, 10-14 years (%), 2003-2004:48.9
Working boys, 10-14 years (%), 2003-2004:49.6
Working girls, 10-14 years (%), 2003-2004:48.1
Working children by sector, 10-14 years (%), 2003-2004:
     – Agriculture82.3
     – Manufacturing4.2
     – Services12.9
     – Other0.6
Minimum age for work:15
Compulsory education age:Not compulsory
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:119.2
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2007:89.4
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2003-2004:76.8
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2006:62.2
ILO Convention 138:8/23/1999
ILO Convention 182:3/14/2006
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes

* Accession

Incidence and Nature of Child Labor

Children in Cambodia work in exploitive conditions on commercial rubber and tobacco plantations, in salt production, in fish processing, as porters, in brick making, in the service sector, and as garbage pickers. They also work in occupations determined by the Government to be hazardous, including processing sea products, including shrimp; breaking, quarrying, or collecting stones; working in gem and coal mining; working in garment factories; working in restaurants; and making handicrafts. Children work as domestic servants; most child domestics are girls, 15 to 17 years, who work between 6 and 16 hours per day.

Cambodia is a source and destination country for trafficking in children. Cambodian girls are trafficked to Thailand for factory and domestic work and may be forced into prostitution. Cambodian children are trafficked to Thailand and Vietnam for begging, selling candy and flowers on the street, and shining shoes. In 2008, the IOM identified 112 Cambodian trafficking victims from Thailand who were mostly children. Girls are trafficked from Vietnam to Cambodia for prostitution. Girls are trafficked internally from rural to urban areas for prostitution. Cambodia is a destination country for foreign child sex tourists, and there are increasing reports of Asian men traveling to Cambodia to have sex with virgin girls.

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Cambodian Labor Law sets the minimum age for wage employment at 15 years. The Labor Law also allows children from 12 to 15 years of age to be hired to do light work provided that the work is not hazardous to their health or mental and physical development and will not affect their regular school attendance, their participation in guidance programs, or vocational training approved by a competent authority. This declaration limits the working hours of children ages 12 to 15 years to 7 hours on non-school days and 4 hours on school days between the hours of 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A 2004 declaration issued by the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MOLVT) prohibits work that is hazardous to the health, safety, and moral development of children under 18 years of age. Thirty-eight types of hazardous work are listed, including working underground, tanning, logging, and using chemicals in textile production. Despite these prohibitions, MOLVT may authorize children who are at least 16 years to perform hazardous work under certain conditions. The law also exempts domestic work, which children as young as 12 are allowed to perform under certain conditions. Children working underground must be provided with strict supervision, safety training, and medical exams every 6 months and may not work underground more than 40 hours per week. Children working in factories may not work more than 9 hours per day and must have at least 13 hours between shifts. Employers must submit lists of working children to labor inspectors and must attain the consent of the child's guardian to contract work for "unemancipated" children.

The law prohibits all forced or compulsory labor and hiring people to work to pay debts. The minimum age for conscription into military service is 18 years. The Constitution prohibits prostitution and the buying and selling of human beings. In April 2008, the new Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation – which contains specific definitions for trafficking crimes, prosecutes for child prostitution and sexual and indecent acts with minors, and defines terms for imprisonment and fines – was in "full effect." The law stipulates 15 to 20 years of imprisonment if the victim of trafficking is under 18 years of age.

The MOLVT is responsible for enforcing the child-related provisions of Cambodian labor law, but an employer has never been prosecuted for a child labor related violation. According to USDOS, inspections in the formal sector were conducted in industries with a low incidence of working children, while industries with a high risk for child work (such as brick making and fishing) saw inspections only after complaints were received. According to USDOS, labor inspectors play no role in enforcing the law in the informal sector or illegal industries.

In 2008, police investigated 168 cases of violence against women and children that resulted in 26 arrests for trafficking. In 2008, 81 Cambodian child victims of trafficking and other acts in Thailand and 206 Cambodian children in Vietnam were returned to Cambodia, and 6 Vietnamese girls were repatriated from Cambodia to Vietnam. As of March 2009, the Government had arrested 11 individuals on child trafficking, child prostitution, and pedophilia charges. According to USDOS, there is some evidence that police are using Cambodia's new Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation to combat human trafficking. However, USDOS also reports that anti-trafficking efforts continue to be hampered by corruption and an ineffectual judicial system, and there is some confusion as to how the law is enforced. To address such confusion, as of February 2009, a legal advisor provided by UNICEF was working with the Ministry of Justice to provide clarification as to which articles are trafficking crimes.

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

In 2008, the Government of Cambodia, in consultation with stakeholders, approved a National Plan of Action (NPA) on the Worst Forms of Child Labor (2008-2012) which contains a shorter list of hazardous child labor than the 2004 MOLVT declaration. The NPA identified the 3 worst forms of child labor (sexual exploitation; trafficking; and use of children in drug production, sales, and trafficking) and 16 hazardous forms (portering; domestic work; waste scavenging; brick making; fishing; working on rubber, tobacco, or agricultural plantations; working in a semi-industry; working in salt production or related enterprises; working in handicrafts or related enterprises; processing sea products; stone and granite breaking; rock/sand quarrying; stone collection; gem or coal mining; restaurant work; and begging). The NPA aims to reduce the number of children 5 to 17 years working in Cambodia to 10.6 percent in 2010 and 8 percent by 2015.

In 2008, the Government updated its NPA on children's issues (2006-2010) to include objectives on combating trafficking in persons; however, as of February 2009, the updated plan was still in review. The National Task Force (NTF) is responsible for coordinating the country's anti-trafficking efforts. The NTF receives technical assistance from USAID. In November and December 2008, the NTF, MTV End Exploitation and Trafficking-Asia, and USAID organized an anti-trafficking campaign in three provinces and Phnom Penh to coincide with Cambodia's National Day to Combat Human Trafficking. In March 2008, the NTF worked to develop uniform indicators and methodologies for nationwide trafficking data collection and recording.

Cambodia is a signatory to the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking. The Government is also a signatory of MOUs on bilateral cooperation to eliminate trafficking with Thailand and has a similar agreement with Vietnam. The Ministry of Tourism (MOT) continues to promote its ChildSafe tourism program. In February 2009, the MOT held a National Roundtable to Prevent Child-Sex Tourism in cooperation with Child-Wise Australia. The Roundtable, funded by AusAID, is part of a series of consultations for the development of an ASEAN 5 Years Plan to Prevent Child-Sex Tourism in ASEAN nations.

The Government participates in two AusAID-funded projects. The Mobilizing Communities for Child Protection, USD 1,050,949 (2006-2010) and Child Safe Cambodia project, USD 1,072,659 (2006-2010) both aim to reduce sexual exploitation of children and prevent child abuse.

The Government also participates in a 1-year USD 1.4 million USAID-funded project that began in October 2008 and is implemented by World Education that aims to improve life skills, teacher education intervention, access to schools, youth and community engagement, and information technology for 100,000 children in 3 provinces. Additionally, the Government participates in a USD 4.6 million USAID-funded project implemented by The Asia Foundation (2006-2009) that aims to coordinate governmental and NGO efforts to combat trafficking.

The Government participates in a USD 4.4 million USDOL-funded program (2007-2011) implemented by Winrock International to withdraw 3,750 and prevent 4,500 children from the worst forms of child labor through provision of direct education services. The Government also participates in a USDOL-funded USD 4.3 million ILO-IPEC project (2008-2012) to develop national capacity to end the worst forms of child labor that targets 7,200 children for withdrawal and 3,800 for prevention from the worst forms of child labor, including trafficking, work in brick making, salt production, fisheries, and working as porters in 15 provinces.

The Government of Cambodia participated in a USD 4.75 million ILO-IPEC program, which ended in December 2008, aimed at eliminating the worst forms of child labor in the brick making, rubber making, salt production, fishing, and service sectors and preventing children from working as domestic workers and porters. The project resulted in 5,884 children being withdrawn and 7,789 children being prevented from labor in these sectors through provision of educational services.

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