According to the latest estimates, fifty-two percent of children aged seven to fourteen-years, or more than one-million-four hundred thousand Cambodian children work. On average, they spend more than twenty hours a week working, mostly in agriculture.
“Excessive and inappropriate work not only stunts the normal development of individual children, it has significant consequences for society as a whole,” said U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Joseph Mussomeli. “Children who have to work to support their families rather than attend school," he said, "don’t acquire the knowledge and skills they need to obtain quality employment in the future, contributing to a cycle of poverty in their own families, and holding back economic growth in the entire country,” he said.
Ambassador Mussomeli spoke at ceremonies inaugurating the launch of a new U.S.-funded effort to help Cambodia battle child labor, the Children’s Empowerment through Education Services project. Since 2001, the U.S. government has been working together with the Cambodian government to combat child labor through education. In that year, the U.S. Department of Labor funded the International Labor Organization’s International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor to provide education and other services to children engaged in exploitive labor, or at-risk of doing so.
Since then, the U.S. has continued to support other committed organizations, such as World Education and Winrock International, with a total investment of nearly thirteen million dollars to stop child labor. More than thirty-five thousand Cambodian children have been saved from dangerous and exploitive labor.
The four-million dollar U.S.-funded Children’s Empowerment project will withdraw and prevent more than eight-thousand children in four Cambodian provinces from exploitive labor in agriculture. It will also support schooling for the children and provide income generating activities for their parents.
“The Cambodian government has taken many positive steps to reduce child labor since our partnership began, and we applaud these efforts,” said Ambassador Mussomeli. “We all understand," he said, "the importance of taking care of young people and investing in their development."