Returns to education are lower than the benefits of emigrating

The IPPMD results for Cambodia suggest that remittances allow households to spend more on educating their children. But this is only the case for households without emigrants. Having an emigrant in the household is associated with lower educational expenditures, canceling out the positive effect of remittances. This may reflect that children in emigrant households have to take on more housework or seek work outside the household to replace the emigrant’s labour. The prospect of future emigration could also be influencing education attendance rates. As further evidence of this phenomenon, the stated intention to emigrate by young people, both boys and girls, is higher for those that are not attending school (Figure 1.7). This dynamic is likely driven by low returns to education obtained in Cambodia in the labour market both at home and in neighbouring countries.

Figure 1.7. Young people planning to emigrate are much less likely to attend school

Share of youth (aged 15-22) attending school, by intentions to emigrate

Note: Results that are statistically significant are indicated as follows: ***: 99%, **: 95%, *: 90%

Source: Authors’ own work based on IPPMD data.


Education policies and programmes can decrease emigration that is motivated by a desire to pay for schooling. One of the strategic goals of Cambodia’s educational policy 2014-2018 is to ensure equity in access to education. Programmes such as scholarships, school meal programmes, and the distribution of textbooks and food aim to increase school enrolment rates, especially by poor and vulnerable children. As these programmes rarely involve financial support (e.g. scholarships) and are of fairly limited coverage, the analysis finds they have little influence on people’s decisions to emigrate, however.

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