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Cambodian Women Migrant Workers: Findings from a Migration Mapping Study






Migration is an emerging development issue in Cambodia. Its increasing scale and its multifaceted nature has started attracting greater interest from the Cambodian government who now recognizes the long-term policy implications of migration. This mapping study is intended to provide a preliminary overview of the issues and problems related to internal and external migration of Cambodian workers. While the study focuses on Cambodian women migrant workers, it is able to identify existing policy/legislation and institutional resources on migration in the Cambodian context.

A quick assessment reveals that the Cambodian policy and legislation on migration remains at an infancy stage, despite the establishment of several bilateral labour agreements in the region.
The awareness of labour rights and consequences of migration is low among Cambodian migrant workers, most of whom had their rights or interests undermined at some stage in the migration process. Migration, regular or irregular, is perceived as a stopgap measure in a country where viable employment opportunities are limited. Cambodian women migrant workers are more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation due to gender-based discrimination and their having a lower set of skills and knowledge compared to men. There are a handful of organizations working on migration issues in Cambodia but resources available to assist migrant workers remains severely constrained. It is partly this which explains why none has a strong gender-sensitive focus in its work.

In its recommendations, this study proposes the Cambodian government to adopt formal, official bilateral labour agreements that include provisions for a standard contract between workers and employment agencies/employers, clear mechanisms for monitoring privately operating recruitment agencies, and protection of migrant workers' freedom of movement and association and their rights to health. The government should also look into establishing an independent body to monitor and regulate recruitment agencies in order to hold them accountable for protecting the rights and interests of migrant workers. It is recommended that minimum standards be created for pre-departure training programme, which should be made available and easily accessible to all migrant workers. Promoting greater public awareness of the importance of safe and orderly migration should be part of an integrated information campaign strategy by the government.

There is a lack of updated, reliable and comprehensive statistics and information on migration in Cambodia. More research and documentation is needed in the volume and modes of irregular migration, the processes and consequences of migration, the relationship between workers and labour agents/brokers/recruiters, the abuses and problems that migrants encounter at their workplace, the costs and benefits of migration for stakeholders, in order to identify appropriate solutions and intervention strategies at the national and grassroots levels. This study recommends continuing discussions and information sharing between migrant-focused NGOs, community-based organizations, trade unions, migrant workers and the government, with the objectives of understanding the migration dynamics, identifying the problems, and lobbying the government to address the gaps.

Number of pages



United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

Place published

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

File Attachments



Cambodian Women Migrant Workers, Regulation and Legislation

Economic sectors

General relevance - all sectors

Content types

Policy analysis and Support initiatives

Target groups

Policymakers, Researchers, and NGOs/community groups/solidarity networks

Geographical focuses

Regional relevance

Spheres of activity

Gender and sexuality studies, Law, and Social work