Definition of Youth

According to the National Policy on Youth Development (2011), youth is defined as between 15-30 years in Cambodia.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • --
  • --
  • Female
  • 18
  • --
  • --

  • No data for marriageable age with parental consent. No specific legislation for same-sex marriage. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Criminal liability is 18, however the court is entitled to charge a minor 14 years or older if circumstances require. The minor aged below 14 shall be not put in pre-trial detention. Source:  UN Child Rights Periodic Report

Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 91.11% Male (15-24) %
  • 91.87% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 39.79%Male %
  • 36.45% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • 7.20% Male (13-15) %
  • 3.00% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
Cambodia has a policy for youth development. A UN situation analysis from 2009 exists.

According to Innovations in Civic Participation – Cambodia, the National Policy on Youth Development (2011) began in 2004, with drafts completed in 2006 and 2008. According to the UN, an accompanying National Youth Action Plan has also been developed. The National Policy on Youth Development (2011) focuses on 12 strategic areas:

  1. legal frameworks and mechanisms;
  2. Education, training and capacity-building;
  3. Education, care and provision of health service;
  4. Entrepreneurship and labor market;
  5. Protection of social security, peace and justice;
  6. Youth’s participation;
  7. Relaxation, leisure, and sports;
  8. Arts and culture;
  9. Awareness of environment, agriculture, tourism and business;
  10. Volunteers;
  11. Gender;
  12. Drugs use and increase rehabilitation.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Youth Department within the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sports (MoEYS) has responsibility for youth affairs and the development of the National Policy on Youth Development (2011). The National Council for Youth Development is responsible for “coordinating, monitoring, evaluating and assisting the government in the process of developing youth.” According to The Phnom Penh Post in August 2011, the Council will “promot[e] the youth programme into national budgeting, within various line ministries, public institutions and local authorities.”

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The Youth Council of Cambodia is an independent, apolitical organisation “formed as a coalition of five major student and youth organizations”. It was established to “advocate for peaceful democratic reform and promote voter and civic education among Cambodian youth and students.” Its mission is to “foster a greater participation of youth in development and provide a voice for young Cambodians” and through trainings and programmes has become “a voice for students advocating non-violent democratic change in Cambodia.”

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
The Global Post reports that the 2014 Cambodia budget included KHR 1.337 million (USD 335 million) )on education. The full Budget Law 2013 (2012) is available in Khmer. According to the World Bank, Cambodia spent 12.39% of its government expenditure on education provision in 2007, and 2.60% of its GDP in 2010.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

The National Policy on Youth Development (2011) provides a rationale for its priorities:

The Royal Government has determined that education is very fundamental for sustainability of economic and social development and economic growth that lead to poverty reduction. In the academic years 2010-2011, the rate of students at elementary school was 96.1%, lower secondary school 33.9% and upper secondary school 20.8%. The number of literate people (aged between 15-24) was 87.5% (2008 national census), and that of students holding associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctoral degree was 263,000 (2009-2010 report of Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports).

The Royal Government has focused its attention on youth by providing them with high quality of education that aims at strengthening their capacity for engagement in labor market. At the same time, some youth still lack access to educational service and others, especially women, can get only jobs with low payment. Some youth leave their hometown to find jobs in the city and others go abroad in order to find jobs. Moreover, they face with vulnerability such as school dropout, loss of choice, drugs addiction, alcohol consumption and work-related accidents

The UN’s Situation Analysis for Youth in Cambodia (2009) notes a number of problems facing young people:

Employment The single most important issue confronting youth in Cambodia today is employment. The labour force is increasing by as many as 300,000 per year, and will increase to as many as 400,000 per year in the near future. The garment, tourism, and construction industries are not growing sufficiently quickly to absorb so many new labour market entrants. As a result, the Government’s Rectangular Strategy, as outlined in the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2006 – 2010, details steps to develop the agricultural sector as a “third engine” of growth. On-farm employment is, however, constrained by insecure land tenure, lack of affordable credit, fragmented inputs and services, a lack of infrastructure, and poorly functioning markets. Off-farm employment seems to have great potential but more effort is needed to stimulate Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) development and agri-business investments. There is a need to attract foreign investment in agri-business and to strengthen the business-enabling environment.

Moreover, as the economic structures of the region change, there is need for Cambodia to not only absorb the growing labour force, but to prepare young people for the next generation of jobs. For example, as Cambodia’s agricultural sector intensifies and diversifies, there will be a greater reliance on machinery and transport that will require skilled mechanics for maintenance and repair. There is also a need to match these opportunities with affordable credit to support SME start-ups. Even in the face of immediate needs, such medium and long range planning is critical.

Agriculture The majority of Cambodians (60 per cent) continue to work in agriculture, where growth has averaged 3.3 per cent per year – far below tourism and manufacturing; and today it represents less than 33 per cent (a decline from 46 per cent in 1994) as a share of the economy. Additionally, investment in agriculture has been low considering its importance to rural livelihoods, with public investment equaling only 0.55 per cent of GDP. Land tenure is generally insecure and landlessness is increasing.

Drugs The production, sale and use of drugs are becoming increasingly complex and appear to be spreading throughout the country. While data are difficult to come by, more than 80 per cent of known drug users are below 26. Most drug users are unemployed, sex workers and workers in labour-intensive industries, including construction, garment manufacturing, and truck/taxi driving, as well as street children.

The United Nations in Cambodia’s Youth Common Advocacy Points 2011 notes the gender and generational divides:

Cambodian tradition and culture emphasizes respect for elders, and combined with patriarchal beliefs, tradition tends to respect elder men, limiting opportunities for young people, in particular young women, to express their views. Increasing the involvement of young people in local development and decision-making is a real opportunity and will provide decision-makers with the perspectives and experiences of young people.

From the Cambodia Human Development Report (2000)

There is a striking gender difference in the incidence of child labor among children aged 14-17 years, with one-half of all girls, but only one-third of all boys, working. Not surprisingly, the rates of school enrolment are much lower for girls than for boys aged 14-17 years. Both the rates of school enrollment and of child labor are virtually identical for boys and girls at young ages, but the gender disparity starts manifesting itself after age 12 and continues to widen until age 17.

Another form of child work about which little is known is domestic work outside the child’s own home. A large number of children in Cambodia work as domestic servants, responsible for everything from cooking, cleaning, child care and running errands. It is estimated that Phnom Penh alone has 6,500 child domestic workers aged 14-17 years. While most child domestic workers fall within the 14-17 age group, it is not uncommon to find child domestic workers as young as 8 or 9 years of age. One survey found that only 7% of the child domestic workers in Phnom Penh were male; the remaining 93% were females. Female domestic workers are often preferred over male domestic workers because they are perceived to be more hard-working and less likely to complain about long working hours and difficult jobs. Unfortunately, this makes the girl domestic workers also vulnerable to sexual exploitation by their employers.