Impact of Covid-19 on Cambodia’s Informal Sector

A new book by the Asian Development Bank reveals one in five informal workers in Cambodia lost employment due to the pandemic, with women workers hit harder than men.
A corn seller in Phnom Penh, August 31, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa
A corn seller in Phnom Penh, August 31, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa

One in five informal workers in Cambodia have lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a newly published book, Informal Services in Asian Cities.

The book highlights the latest data of critical challenges caused by the global pandemic that Cambodian women in informal micro and small enterprises (MSEs) face. Unemployment among women (22 percent) was much higher than among men (13 percent). It added that nearly two-thirds of all informal sector workers reported they are unable to meet their basic needs.

In 2020, the Cambodian economy Informal Services in Asian Cities shrunk by 3.1 percent, its worst performance since 1994.

Unemployment, poverty, and inequality, all of which rose in Cambodia because of Covid-19, continue to be higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to 2022 data from the World Bank.

The 400-page book, by Asian Development Bank (ADB), dedicates a chapter to discuss the characteristics of MSEs in Cambodia, penned by Dil B. Rahut, Jeetendra Prakash Aryal, Panharoth Chhay, and Peter J. Morgan.

Based on surveys carried out by Kantar Cambodia, UNDP’s Data for Cambodia also echoes the ADB study with its own report, ‘Socio-Economic implications on Informal Workers since Covid-19 Outbreak’.

It uncovered that Cambodia’s border provinces and tourist hot spots are the hardest hit. It said, “Informal workers in Pailin, bordering Thailand, saw the greatest reduction in their weekly earnings.”

With regard to the tourism sector, it added, “Informal workers in Siem Reap continued to see a decline in their weekly earnings, which can be attributed to the increase in those reportedly working fewer days/hours per week.”

The book, which explains lessons for urban planning and management from the Covid-19 pandemic, concludes with recommendations to help women entrepreneurs in expanding and transitioning into formal enterprises.

It said, “Cambodian public policy should focus on providing training to bolster the entrepreneurial capacity of women, so that they can be empowered to participate in sectors that require higher skills and generate higher revenues.”

It added that of equal importance is the policy should promote measures that will provide more access to financial resources for women, helping them overcome barriers to participate in enterprises that require higher capital.

Informal Services in Asian Cities: Lessons for Urban Planning and Management from the COVID-19 Pandemic