In spite of strong overall economic growth averaging 6% a year for the last decade, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in Asia with almost a third of the population living below the poverty line, and ranked 139 out of 187 in the Inequality-adjusted International Human Development Index (2013).
Tourism contributes about 12% of Cambodia’s GDP, making it the second largest economic sector. In 2008, this sector provided employment for 70,000 (National Institute of Statistics of Cambodia) people. In urban areas, examples of these occupations include street vendors, taxi and cyclo drivers, waiters, construction workers and hotel cleaners. In rural areas, examples include farmers, fishermen, textiles producers and handicraft makers.
However, up to three quarters of these workers are informal labourers or unpaid family workers with no employment contract. They often have to work in poor or dangerous conditions for low and irregular wages.
By taking part in formal training programmes such as those provided by HITT, these workers will be able to access higher wages, valid contracts and workers’ rights. Cambodia’s overall receptiveness to tourism will be grown as workers better understand the expectations of visitors, and provide a service in accordance with this understanding.