Poverty Reduction among Youth in Cambodia: Developing Youth Volunteer Skill Sets for Increased Employability
Poverty Reduction among Youth in Cambodia: Developing Youth Volunteer Skill Sets for Increased Employability
Creating additional opportunities for Cambodian youth to build skills, exchange expertise and improve employment opportunities through volunteer work


In Cambodia, young people (under 25 years of age) make up the majority of the population, with 20.6 percent between the ages of 15 and 24 years. While this demographic trend creates opportunities, there are also challenges. One of the county’s major socio-economic challenges is to create decent and productive employment opportunities for an estimated 300,000 new entrants to the labour market every year while ensuring that young people have access to skills, quality education and business training. 

Acquiring transferable skills will improve access to employment opportunities for young people. To take advantage of the ASEAN Economic Community and the free flow of skilled labour in specific trades, Cambodia must quickly capitalize on its youth population and demographic dividend. Improving skills has also been identified as the country’s greatest challenge to trade expansion.

Towards a Solution

Funded by Brazil, India and South Africa (the IBSA Fund), the project entitled ‘Poverty reduction among youth in Cambodia: Development of youth volunteer skill sets for increased employability’ was led by United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and implemented in partnership with the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS). The aim of the project is to increase the ability of Cambodian youth to build skills and find decent work through volunteerism, as well as to reduce poverty by contributing to their own development and the economic development of their country. 

The methodology followed a participatory approach from design to implementation. The Government led national consultations with key stakeholders from the public and private sectors, academia, civil society organizations and the United Nations in order to design a project with a holistic approach. The project was divided into three goals: to 

  • strengthen national capacity to create an enabling policy environment for volunteerism and its recognition; to  
  • promote the engagement and inclusion of vulnerable youth in volunteerism as a means of developing employable skills; and to focus on  
  • advocacy, information and monitoring to implement volunteer management mechanisms. 

Fostering cross-country transfer of knowledge, the project team received 16 on-site volunteers from countries in the global North and South, including Cambodia, China, India, the Republic of Korea and Thailand, and mobilized 2,400 local youth volunteers.2 Of the 16 on-site volunteers, 11 are national volunteers from Cambodia and 6 are women. One volunteer from China contributed his information and communications technology expertise to build the ‘Youth Volunteer for Cambodia’ online platform, through which hundreds of young people have access to volunteer information and opportunities. 

The ‘Youth Volunteer for Cambodia’ online platform is managed by MoEYS. Although still in its infancy, it will continue to benefit thousands of young people across the country, which is evidence of the sustainable impacts of the project. 

Innovative project activities included an assessment of youth centres, the ‘Volunteering for Community Service’ pilot initiative, the ‘Volunteering for Social Entrepreneurship’ pilot programme, youth volunteering and employability activities, study tours and visit from Indian youth to Cambodia, the ‘Volunteering during National School Holiday’ pilot programme, an International Volunteer Day, a national forum on volunteerism, and youth volunteerism outreach sessions. In addition, there were activities related to thematic workshops, the national Entrepreneurship Day and Dream Magazine. 

Through the project, 14,172 participants were reached. They have participated in various volunteering programmes that have equipped them with transferable skills in communication, problem-solving, teamwork, presentation, leadership, time management and resource mobilization. 

To ensure sustainability, the project was integrated into the United Nations Joint Programme on Youth Employment in Cambodia. UNV supported activities to exchange knowledge on youth empowerment, in collaboration with MoEYS and with support from the Resident Coordinator Office and the United Nations Development Programme. 

In implementing the programme, MoEYS has strengthened its capacities, particularly in provincial youth centres. In 2019, the ‘Volunteer for My Community’ initiative was upscaled to a Government initiative and is being implemented in 12 provinces across Cambodia. It has benefited over 200 youth volunteers who have provided assistance to communities, including 2,396 young people, both in and out of school.  

The Government has contributed US$85,400 to the ‘Volunteer for My Community’ initiative for training and monitoring, and local communities in each province have also provided support, with an estimated total of $38,912.  

The Government has already committed to upscaling the initiative to reach 17 provinces in 2020.  

South-South knowledge exchange allowed participants to share experiences in implementing the project with counterparts in other developing countries. The project was highly praised by the four participating countries (China, India, the Republic of Korea and Thailand) that conducted exchange programmes during the project period. It leverages the unique value of volunteering to provide solutions for countries facing the challenges of a growing youth population. Volunteerism is an important education and training tool to increase youth employability, and youth volunteer efforts benefit both the people in the community and the stakeholder institutions involved in the process. The project’s interventions have helped young people reach their full potential. According to an online survey of 137 youth volunteers, 52 of them (38 percent) were employed at the end of the project period. Among those 52 volunteers, 79 percent felt that they had received their job as a result of having participated in the project’s volunteer activities. In addition to improved employability, a small but significant minority of volunteers indicated that they had become leaders in the making while working with communities. Finally, the project’s organization and setting were robust and flexible, allowing for an immediate response to challenges as they arose. 

Contact Information

Ms. Shalina Miah, Regional Manager for Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Programme

Countries involved

Brazil, Cambodia, India, South Africa

Supported by

United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Programme, IBSA Fund

Implementing Entities

United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Programme

Project Status


Project Period

2017 - 2020

URL of the practice


Primary SDG

04 - Quality Education

Primary SDG Targets


Secondary SDGs

08 - Decent Work and Economic Growth, 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Secondary SDG Targets

8.6, 17.6, 17.17, 17.18

Similar Solutions

NAME OF SOLUTION Countries SDG Project Status

A Billion Brains: Smarter Children, Healthier Economies High Level Meeting on South-South Cooperation for Child Rights

Brazil, Cambodia, India, South Africa 17 - Partnerships for the Goals Completed View Details

Accelerating the Transformational Shift to a Low-Carbon Economy in Mauritius Towards supplying 35 percent of the country’s energy needs with renewables by 2025

Brazil, Cambodia, India, South Africa 05 - Gender Equality 09 - Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 13 - Climate Action Ongoing View Details

Accelerator Labs Network Following collective intelligence methods to address emerging sustainability challenges and the growing demand for local solutions

Brazil, Cambodia, India, South Africa 08 - Decent Work and Economic Growth 13 - Climate Action Ongoing View Details

Accessibility of Financial Services and the Private Sector in Africa Maximizing the impact of financial cooperation on economic development and industrialization in Africa

Brazil, Cambodia, India, South Africa 08 - Decent Work and Economic Growth Completed View Details

Accessibility ToolKit Promoting accessibility as a cornerstone for inclusive digital development in Bangladesh.

Brazil, Cambodia, India, South Africa 08 - Decent Work and Economic Growth Completed View Details