Cambodia Profile

Cambodia – Overview


Located in South East Asia, Cambodia is the home of 15 million inhabitants.

The social fabric of Cambodia has been woven out of dark years of colonization, wars and genocide. An estimated two million children, women and men – or a quarter of the population – have been killed by execution, disease and starvation, and forced labour under the Khmer Rouge regime. Years of violence and isolation from the world have caused ripples that are still being felt throughout the country and within the population. Decades later, the altering effects on the country’s inhabitants continue to effect today’s children and youth.

Since the Paris Peace Accords marked the official end of the Cambodian-Vietnamese War in 1991, the country has been healing from a period of violent conflict and is now relatively peaceful. Yet, in spite of the major economic and social transformations that have taken place, overall development has been slow.


Despite many efforts to develop beyond poverty, the country remains one of the poorest in the region. If nowadays 10% of the people live below the poverty line (with less than 1.25$ per day, according to international standards), it is worth noting that 41% of the population live just above the poverty line with less than 2$ per day. This situation is a great threat to children, many of which drop out of school in order to provide for their families, sometimes putting themselves at risk. In fact, 18.3% of children in Cambodia are involved in child labour, and while 86% of children are enrolled in primary school, less than 40% continue into secondary school [1]. Girls are the first victims of this situation, as they are more likely to drop out in order to take care of the house and their siblings.


Cambodian society is deeply rooted in a restrictive and hierarchical culture rife with gender issues. Though young women in Cambodia are increasingly gaining access to educational opportunities, they still face significant barriers to full participation in social and political life. Strong cultural norms, centered on concepts like Chbab Srey (see article on Chbab Srey) lay out a set of principles for girls and women, which dictate that their place is in the home and promote deference to men.

According to the World Economic Forum, Cambodia ranks 109 out of 145 countries in terms of gender equality.

Here are a few indicators:

  Female Male
Labour force participation (%) 82 88
Estimated earned income (PPP US$) 2,704 3807
Legislators, senior officials and managers 18 82
Professional and technical workers (%) 35 65
Literacy rate  71 84
Enrollment in primary education 97 100
Enrollment in secondary education 36 40
Enrollment in tertiary education 12 20
Healthy life expectancy 64 60
Women in parliament 20 80
Women in ministerial positions 7 93
Years with female head of state (last 50 years) 0 50

To learn more on Cambodia’s World Economic Forum ranking:

World economic forum – Women’s rights ranking – CAMBODIA

[1] UNICEF data :


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