The Impact of COVID 19 on the Cambodia Recruitment Market

The Impact of COVID 19 on the Cambodia Recruitment Market

2020 has been a difficult year for most businesses in the world, even if only because of the lack of predictability that COVID-19 has brought. In many ways Cambodia has not been heavily impacted in terms of lockdowns and closures, although two main sectors of the economy have suffered a great deal, namely the garment/footwear sector and the hospitality/tourism sector.

Garment/footwear laid off something like 30% of the labour force early in the year and so far has not seen the rebound in orders that will be needed to get back to normal production levels.

Hospitality/tourism saw immediate devastation in Quarter 1 when tourism effectively dried up. There were also layoffs and closures which impacted the industry from top to bottom. With no end in sight, many tourism-based businesses have closed and the people employed in those businesses have had to be very agile to find alternative employment. Luckily that sector generally employs people with ‘transferable skills’ – so for example, hotel sales staff have made the move into property sales and are now working for developers. Of course, not all have been lucky and the impact can be clearly seen in Siem Reap. The refocusing on domestic tourism has saved some jobs, but only for a fraction of operations as some tourism services, for example transport, agents and guides, are geared to foreign tourists.

Apart from these two impacted sectors the Cambodia economy has rebounded fast, starting with the Chinese-owned employers.  After a pause in March and April, in May those clients went back to executing their 2020 plans. They are recruiting across all sectors where they are active, though for many of their positions the ability to work in Chinese is a requirement.

This year we have seen that the IT and other technology-related sectors are the hottest, there is growing demand for developers in particular. The two factors behind this seems to be the global move to online and distant working, and the moves to grow mobile and internet commerce in Cambodia itself.

Construction and property-related business also only saw a brief downturn, once investors saw that the Cambodia economy was proving to be more resilient than others in the region they pushed ahead with their plans. This means that the recruitment for these sectors has also held up throughout the year.

FMCG and other consumer-related sectors saw some restructuring early in the year with layoffs and hiring freezes but that too seems to have ended and companies are now cautiously recruiting.

When we look at the impact of COVID-19 on salary/package offers we can see that initially some employers thought that they could make offers under candidates’ previous packages because those candidates had been laid off. The reality is this idea did not make an impact on the market and Cambodian candidates did not accept low-ball offers. We do see however that foreigners in the market have been accepting lower offers. Most foreigners who had been laid off were reluctant to leave Cambodia and so accepted packages that previously they would not have accepted.

As market trends, depressed salaries for foreigners, and increasing demand for Cambodians in the hot areas of the market are both likely to continue into 2021. We expect to see the continuation of the rebound of the Cambodia economy as a whole, though we accept that the two severely impacted sectors are likely to take several years before we see recovery.


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