What are the key issues and knowledge gaps?

The research on Cambodian migration is spread thinly over a range of topics and methodologies. Most studies fall into three broad themes: the determinants of migration; challenges in the migration process; and the social and economic impacts of migration.

Higher wages are a key pull factor for migrants

Migration in Cambodia is largely a rural phenomenon. Several studies have attributed migration to push factors which include poverty, lack of employment and alternative sources of income, landlessness, debt and natural disasters (Maltoni, 2006; Chan, 2009; IOM, 2010). Pull factors such as wage differentials also play a role: there is a substantial wage gap between Cambodia and the migrant destination countries. The monthly minimum wage in Cambodia is uSD 140, compared to nearly uSD 300 in seven Thai provinces, and approximately uSD 790 in Korea (Tunon and Khleang, 2013). Cambodia’s monthly minimum wage is higher than in Lao PDR (uSD 111) and Myanmar (uSD 67), which explains why these are less attractive destination countries. In 2014 Cambodia’s per capita income (measured as GDP per capita) was five times lower than Thailand’s and 11 times lower than Malaysia’s (World Bank, 2016).



Another pull factor comes from social networks - the relationships that connect migrants, former migrants, and non-migrants in origin and destination areas through ties of kinship, friendship and shared community origin (Massey et al., 1993). A majority of Cambodian migrants received help from relatives, friends, villagers or brokers for their initial migration journey; while some pioneer migrants who have good connections with employers are also involved in the migration business (Chan, 2009; IOM, 2010). The CDRI’s latest survey finds that about half of migrants went to work in Thailand with the help of a broker, 29% with the help of relatives, 4% via friends, and 3% via recruitment agencies (Hing and Sry forthcoming).

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