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Meeting lauds importance of advancing tech in labour

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Garment factory workers produce items of apparel at a facility in Kandal province in 2016. Heng Chivoan

Meeting lauds importance of advancing tech in labour

Government officials said on Wednesday that the country’s labour sector still needs time to adapt to the digital economy, while encouraging the industry to embrace technology that would allow them to remain competitive.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance yesterday held a workshop focusing on entrepreneurship within the digital economy. The meeting aimed to outline current challenges and obtain input from the private sector.

Vongsey Vissoth, secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, told attendees that Cambodia is in the first stage of a policy framework that would work to bring the sector up to a higher technological standard. The five-year strategy seeks to move the Kingdom up from its current status as a lower-middle-income country.

“It is not easy, we need to do a lot of work to transform our economy to a digital economy” he said.

“We would reach for the goal of a digital economy, but we need time to promote the human capacity and train professional skills.”

The influence of digital technology could help the industry to increase productivity, bring in high-salary jobs as well as boost job security, minimise inequality and close the income gap, he said.

“The coming of the digital economy will bring good opportunities into society and have a positive impact, so we collect all the inputs in order to take action on our plan

to support entrepreneurship through strengthening the infrastructure, financial and skill following the government’s program,” he said, adding that this was the start to bring the digital economy into the mainstream.

Experts from the Asia Development Bank (ADB) warned of disruption within the labour market due to technological advances at the bank’s annual meeting in Manila last week, though bank officials also noted that Cambodia had several programs in place to help mitigate any negative consequences.

Elisabetta Gentile, an economist at the ADB, said technological advances like automation would require workers to acquire new skills in order to stay competitive in the future.

“We have to help [workers] for this transition, in order to contribute to economic growth in the country,” she said.

Cambodia’s government is vocally supportive of such a transition, although it remains to be seen whether the significant investment required to retrain the workforce will be forthcoming.

“It is a real challenge that we will face in the next decade,” said Heng Sour, a spokesman for the Labour Ministry. “We need to move from the labour-intensive [work] to a more knowledge-based industry, and train our workforce to cope with that challenge.”

The ADB has proposed several projects in Cambodia that seek to develop the country’s workforce, including a $60 million project that focuses on educating workers, with the goal of transforming Cambodia’s economy from labour-based to skills-based by 2025.

Keo Mom, CEO of Ly LY Food industry Co Ltd, said this is the time for a technological revolution, and that entrepreneurs need to transform in order to compete in the market.

“Everything in the world market is shifting toward technology, if we want to achieve, we need to transform ourselves to use technological systems even though it is a bit tough at the beginning,” she said. “Of course, we need time to train, but we can gain many benefits from the digital system.”

Cambodians lack functional literacy to fully benefit from exposure to ICT (information and communication technology), Chan Sophal, Director of Center for Policy Studies, said, while integrated logistics systems were not yet developed.

“Cambodia has some parts of the digital economy already, but it still needs more infrastructure, skills and regulations to expand it,” he said. “The quicker Cambodia prepares itself, the better it is, as the future will be more digitised.”

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