Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cambodia

Publisher United States Department of Labor
Author Bureau of International Labor Affairs
Publication Date 27 August 2008
Cite as United States Department of Labor, 2007 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor - Cambodia, 27 August 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48caa4633f.html [accessed 12 July 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 Labor567
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:14/15*
Compulsory education age:Not compulsory
Free public education:Yes
Gross primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:126
Net primary enrollment rate (%), 2005:96
School attendance, children 5-14 years (%), 2003-2004:76.8
Survival rate to grade 5 (%), 2004:63
ILO-IPEC participating country:Yes
* Laws are inconsistent

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, in portering, in brick making, and as rubbish pickers.568 They also work processing sea products; breaking, quarrying or collecting stones; in gem and coal mining; in garment factories; and in restaurants.569 Children work in restaurants and as domestic servants. Most child domestics are girls 14 to 17 years old, though it is not uncommon to find workers as young as 6 or 7 years; they typically work 12 to 16 hour days, 7 days a week.570

Cambodia is a country of origin, transit, and destination for trafficking in children. Children are trafficked internally for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, work in garment factories, begging, in construction, as domestics, and porters. Cambodian children are trafficked to Thailand for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation, domestic work, begging, street hawking, flower selling, and for work in the construction and agricultural sectors.571 Children are also trafficked into Vietnam for begging.572 Vietnamese girls are trafficked into Cambodia for the purpose of sexual exploitation.573

Child Labor Laws and Enforcement

The Labor Law sets the minimum age for wage employment at 15 years,574 although a later 1999 ministerial decree sets the minimum age at 14 years.575 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.576 A 2007 ministerial decree limits the working hours of children ages 12 to 14 years to 7 hours on non-school days and 4 hours on school days, between the hours of 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.577 Cambodian law prohibits work that is hazardous to the mental or physical development of children under 18 years.578 Employers who hire children less than 18 years to work in hazardous labor are liable to a fine of 31 to 60 days of the daily wage.579 The law lists 38 types of hazardous work, such as tanning, logging, using chemicals in textile production, in which children under 18 years are not permitted to work. The law separately identifies domestic work as hazardous and states that children under 12 years shall not carry out domestic work; it also sets guidelines for children 12 to 14 years undertaking domestic work.580 The law states that no one under 18 years 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 with parents or guardians must document their consent in order to work.581 In December 2007, the Government adopted additional child labor protections through the passage of six ministerial decrees.582

The law prohibits all forced or compulsory labor.583 The law also prohibits hiring people to work to pay debts .584 The minimum age for conscription into military service is 18 years.585 The Constitution prohibits prostitution and the trafficking of human beings.586 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.587 The 2008 Suppression of Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation Law stipulates 15 to 20 years of imprisonment for traffickers if the victim is under 18 years old.588 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.589

The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training (MOLVT) is responsible for enforcing the child-related provisions of the Cambodian Labor Law.590 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, and day labor, where the most serious child labor problems exist.591 In 2007, no employer was prosecuted for violating child labor laws.592 Local police are responsible for enforcing laws against child trafficking and prostitution.593 According to USDOS, although the Government has increased arrests and prosecutions of traffickers, anti-trafficking efforts continue to be hampered by reported corruption and a weak judicial system.594 From April 2007 to February 2008, the police arrested 57 offenders for cross border and domestic trafficking.595 In 2007, six foreign nationals were convicted of the commercial sexual exploitation of Cambodian children.596

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 includes specific goals to combat child labor and trafficking, develop national plans to address these issues, and improve enforcement mechanisms for violators of child labor and trafficking laws.597 The MOLVT's Strategic Plan 2006-2010 makes the elimination of the worst forms of child labor a priority.598

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)," aimed at creating a sustained and effective system of cross-border cooperation and collaboration to combat human trafficking.599 The Government of Cambodia has signed MOUs on Bilateral Cooperation for Eliminating Trafficking in Children and Women and Assisting Victims of Trafficking with the Governments of Thailand and Vietnam.600 In April 2007, the Government established a 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.601 In July 2007, the Government established a "Leading Task Force" on human trafficking activities as a support structure for the National Task Force.602

The Ministry of Tourism (MOT) conducted workshops for the hospitality industry on the commercial sexual exploitation of children.603 The MOT continues to work with the ILO to promote "Child Safe" tourism policies to prevent trafficking of women and children for labor and sexual exploitation.604 The Ministry of Interior operates an anti-trafficking hotline and MOSAVY operates temporary shelters for victims of trafficking.605

The Government of Cambodia is participating in a USD 4 million USDOL-funded program, implemented by Winrock International, to reduce the number of children in Cambodia engaged in exploitive child labor in subsistence and commercial agriculture. The project targets 3,750 children for withdrawal and 4,500 children for prevention from work in hazardous labor in subsistence and commercial agriculture, including fresh water fishing in 150 villages in the provinces of Siem Reap, Pursat, Kampong Cham, and Prey Veng.606 The Government is also participating in a USD 4.75 million USDOL-funded Timebound Program, supported by ILOIPEC, to eliminate child labor in specified worst forms and to create a platform for eliminating all forms of child labor. The program targets 4,260 children to be withdrawn and 5,650 to be prevented from work in brick-making, portering, rubber-making, domestic work, salt production, fish processing, and service sectors.607 Cambodia is also part of a USDOL-funded global project, implemented by Winrock International, which aims to substantially reduce the engagement of children in the worst forms of child labor.608 The Government also participated in a 4-year USD 3 million USDOL-funded project which concluded in September 2007. The project, implemented by World Education, prevented 18,353 children from engaging in commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking through the provision of educational opportunities in the provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Cham, and Prey Veng, as well as Phnom Penh.609 USDOL also funded a Hagar International project through July 2007 that reintegrated trafficked women with the provision of counseling services and vocational training in the Phnom Penh area.610

The Government of Cambodia is participating in a USD 4.5 million USAID funded project to combat trafficking.611 In 2007, USAID began to fund the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Project (CTIP). The CTIP project brings together nine government ministries to collaborate on counter-trafficking issues.612 The Government is also participating in several Australian Aid Agency supported activities in Cambodia. The Mobilizing Communities for Child Protection project and A Child Safe Cambodia project work to protect the rights of children against commercial sexual exploitation and abuse. These projects total almost USD 3 million and will last through 2010.613


567 For statistical data not cited here, see the Data Sources and Definitions section. For data on ratifications and ILO-IPEC membership, see the Executive Summary. For minimum age for admission to work, age to which education is compulsory, and free public education, see 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 January 7, 2008, para 3-4. See also U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, January 7, 2008, para 6. See also U.S. Department of State, "Cambodia," in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2007, Washington, DC, March 11, 2008, section 5; available from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100516.htm.

568 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, vi.

569 ILO, UNICEF, and World Bank, Children's Work in Cambodia: A Challenge for Growth and Poverty Reduction, December 2006, 19, 20; available from http://www.crin.org/docs/WB_Child_labour.pdf.

570 Eleanor Brown, Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Child Domestic Workers and Patterns of Trafficking in Cambodia, IOM, January 2007, 19, 47; available from http://www.iom.int/jahia/webdav/site/myjahiasite/shared/shared/mainsite/published_docs/books/CDW%20report.pdf. See also ILO, UNICEF, and World Bank, Children's Work in Cambodia, 22. See also ILO, Child Domestic Labour in Cambodia: Why It Has to Stop and How We Can Stop It, Phnom Penh, 2004, 5, 9; available from http://www.ilo.org/public/english/region/asro/bangkok/library/download/pub04-12.pdf.

571 ILO, UNICEF, and World Bank, Children's Work in Cambodia, 19. See also U.S. Department of State, "Cambodia (Tier 2 Watch List)," in Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007, Washington, DC, June 12, 2007; available from http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2007/82805.htm. See also ECPAT International, Global Monitoring Report on the Status of Action Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Cambodia, Bangkok, 2006, 11; available from http://www.ecpat.net/eng/A4A_2005/PDF/EAP/Global_Monitoring_Report-CAMBODIA.pdf.

572 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting February 28, 2008, 3.

573 Ibid.

574 Government of Cambodia, Cambodian Labor Law, article 177(1). See also U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, January 7, 2008, para 4.

575 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, January 7, 2008, para 3, 4.

576 Government of Cambodia, Cambodian Labor Law, article 177(4).

577 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, January 7, 2008, para 5.

578 Government of Cambodia, Cambodian Labor Law, article 177(2).

579 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting March 5, 2007, para 3c. See also U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, February 28, 2008, 8.

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

581 Ibid.

582 ILO-IPEC, Support to the Cambodia National Plan of Action on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor: A TimeBound Approach Technical Progress Report, Geneva, March 2008.

583 Government of Cambodia, Cambodian Labor Law, articles 15-16.

584 Ibid.

585 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.

586 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 ILO, C138 Minimum Age Convention, 1973, accessed November 19, 2007; available from http://webfusion.ilo.org/public/db/standards/normes/appl/appl-yConvYear.cfm?hdroff=1&:ang=EN&conv=C138.

587 ILO, C138 Minimum Age Convention, 1973, article 3.

588 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, February 28, 2008, 7, 8. See also U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting February 19, 2008, para 2.

589 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, August 30, 2005, 8.

590 Ibid.

591 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, November 6, 2003, 8. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Cambodia," section 6d.

592 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Cambodia," section 6d.

593 U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007: Cambodia," 27. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Cambodia," section 5.

594 U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Cambodia," section 5. See also U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, March 5, 2007.

595 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, February 28, 2008, 2.

596 Ibid., 8.

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

598 Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MOLVT), Strategic Plan 2006-2010, 10. See also ILO-IPEC, Support to the Cambodia National Plan of Action on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor: A Timebound Approach Technical Progress Report, Geneva, March 2007, 16.

599 UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (UNIAP), COMMIT Process, [online] 2007 [cited December 13 2007]; available from http://no-trafficking.org/content/COMMIT_Process/commit_background.html#01. See also U.S. Department of State, "Country Reports – 2007: Cambodia," section 5.

600 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, February 28, 2008, 11.

601 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting November 20, 2007, para 3.

602 World Education, OPTIONS: Combating Child Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation through Education in Cambodia, Technical Progress Report, September 2007, 3.

603 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, February 28, 2008, 17.

604 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 U.S. Department of State, "Trafficking in Persons Report – 2007: Cambodia."

605 U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, March 5, 2007, para 4a. See also U.S. Embassy – Phnom Penh, reporting, August 30, 2005, para 27. See also Human Trafficking.org, Ministry of Women's and Veteran's Affairs (MWVA) Profile, [online] 2007 [cited December 13, 2007]; available from http://www.humantrafficking.org/organizations/44.

606 U.S. Department of Labor, Children's Empowerment through Education Services: Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Cambodia, ILAB Technical Cooperation Project Summary, Washington, DC, 2007.

607 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.

608 Winrock International, Child Labor Reduction through Community Based Education, [online] 2007 [cited December 13, 2007]; available from http://www.winrock.org/fact/facts.asp?CC=5519&bu=.

609 U.S. Department of Labor, OPTIONS: Combating Child Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation through Education, ILAB Technical Cooperation Project Summary, Washington, DC, 2007.

610 U.S. Department of Labor, Reintegration of Trafficked Women, ILAB Technical Cooperation Project Summary, Washington, DC, 2007.

611 HumanTrafficking.org, U.S. Promises Funding to Counter Human Trafficking in Cambodia, [online] October 27, 2006 [cited December 13, 2007]; available from http://www.humantrafficking.org/updates/442.

612 World Education, OPTIONS: Combating Child Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation through Education in Cambodia, Technical Progress Report, March 2007, 3. See also USAID, USAID Counter Trafficking in Persons Project Summary, August 2005; available from http://www.usaid.gov/kh/One_Pager/counter_trafficking_in_persons.pdf. See also Asia Foundation, In Cambodia: Ending Violence against Women, [online] 2007 [cited December 13, 2007]; available from http://asiafoundation.org/in-asia/2007/11/21/in-cambodia-ending-violence-against-women/.

613 Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Aid Activities in Cambodia, [online] 2007 [cited December 13, 2007]; available from http://www.ausaid.gov.au/country/cbrief.cfm?DCon=1061_5593_8716_8236_8498&CountryID=34&Region=EastA sia.

Search Refworld

Countries