With an estimated 270,000 Cambodians entering the job market annually, many people are unable to obtain employment within the nation. Limited access to jobs and resources forces over 50,000 Cambodians to search for employment in neighboring countries each year. Drawn to the prospect of making a better life for their family these migrant workers jump at the chance to gain decent wages. For women these jobs usually include household labor positions, which is alluring for women without a significant amount of experience or education.
Workers are often lured in under false pretenses; promised ideal working conditions, regular pay, and the chance of bettering their quality of life, all which seem more than desirable. Agencies along with individuals claim to be qualified to help make arrangements and work to recruit employees. Driven by financial gains these recruiters work to intrigue candidates to apply for jobs often using false information or failing to disclose relevant information.
In order to be considered for these jobs workers are often forced to pay application fees and medical exams. Under the impression that they will be compensated by their wages, many go along with this system. However, upon arrival they quickly realize that they have been scammed. Some employees face extremely harsh conditions. Long hours, no adequate rest time, and little to no pay make these migrant workers trapped. Organizations or personal employers will often withhold the employee’s passport and cut off contact with the employee’s family.
Few laws have been established by local and national government to help regulate and control the number of migrant workers, but lax enforcement leads to many irregularities. Recent work on updating Sub-Decree-190, which focuses on “The Management of Sending Cambodian Workers Abroad Through Private Recruitment Agencies”, has been taken place with local Human Rights Organizations. These illegally recruit women, accept false identification to allow minors to work, and eventually promote the abuse of these workers.
With increasing numbers of women making the choice to become migrant workers, Strey Khmer is working to help educate women about the risks associated with this choice. The key to preventing women from getting trapped in compromising situations is ensuring they are aware of their rights and the resources available to them while they are employed abroad. By collaborating with organizations in Cambodia as well as Malaysia (a country frequented by Khmer Migrant Workers) SK is developing curriculum to help educate women about how the migrant system, policies, and helping to inform them of conditions and resources they can access while abroad. Combined with legislative reform attempts by NGOs, we believe there is a chance to help positively impact women who make the choice to work abroad.