The Impact of Chinese Investment on Recruitment in Cambodia

The Impact of Chinese Investment on Recruitment in Cambodia

For the past 12 years Top Recruitment has been the leading recruitment agency in Cambodia. We are a generalist agency but most of our searches are for professional and managerial roles. With the steady 8% p.a. growth for the past decade we have seen the labour market get increasingly hot in some areas. When a recruiter refers to a hot area of a market they mean an area where certain skills are in high demand so employers do not set salaries, employees do.

For years now, technical skills, engineering skills, and strong sales management skills have been the hottest areas of the market, but since early 2019 we can add Chinese language skills to that list. Today about 12% of our open searches require Chinese language skills and another 6% of searches specify that candidates with Chinese are preferable. We have adapted quickly to this change and Top Recruitment Cambodia itself now has a Chinese speaking senior recruiter.

These changes in the market have happened very quickly and this increased demand has had a big impact on salaries. Today in Cambodia the starting salary for a fresh graduate with little or no experience is around $300/month but the same fresh graduate with strong Chinese language skills (for business purposes) can command at least $500. The same applies all the way up the salary scales, Cambodians who can work in Chinese are receiving nearly double the salary of their peers who cannot. Some of our recent placements of Chinese speaking Cambodian candidates include a Sales and Marketing Director in the beauty products sector earning $4,000/month, a Research Analyst in the e-commerce earning $1,800/month and a Khmer/Chinese translator earning $700/month.

We see that although our clients prefer Cambodians who speak Chinese, these are in such short supply our clients will also hire foreign Chinese speakers. It is just because supply cannot keep up with demand. Many Chinese companies are bringing their own staff to Cambodia but these staff generally cannot speak English and do not have the skills and knowledge necessary to penetrate the local market. Companies find that although there is a small pool of Cambodians who speak Chinese, there is also a bigger pool of foreign Chinese speakers already working in Cambodia, these people mostly come from Malaysia and Singapore. Our Chinese speaking Malaysian and Singaporean candidates make particularly strong as they have good qualifications, market knowledge, and they can also speak English so they can get around easily in Cambodia. We do not see these trends changing in the future, if anything they are likely to increase.

Although the most visible Chinese Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is in the property sector, in 2019 that only represented 17% of total Chinese investment. The other 83% of Chinese FDI has been in infrastructure, agriculture and tourism. The investment in property has had impact on the recruitment market, not for staff for the construction companies but for staff in vendors to the sector, property sales and marketing teams and back office staff for developers.

Infrastructure is the sector which has received most of the Chinese FDI and we can say that this has had little or no impact on the recruitment market. Neither have the other two major sectors for investments which are agriculture and tourism.

We predict that the major impact of Chinese FDI on the Cambodia recruitment market will continue to come from the property sector, but we are now other commercial sectors are seeing the impact. These sectors include all forms of services (particularly ‘e’ and ‘m’), banking and finance, insurance and technology.

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