PEPY Youth Facing Unemployment: Students Coping with the Impact of COVID-19
PEPY Empowering Youth has been an integral part of the Cambodian employment sector since 2015. Prior to COVID-19, we have been successful at outputting many capable young individuals into the Cambodian workforce where they aspire to create change and gain financial sustainability. Since the COVID-19 outbreaks started around the world, PEPY students and alumni have faced roadblocks in their ability to fulfill their goals to support their families.
While the Cambodian government and community has shown great success in limited cases of COVID-19 by locking borders in 2020-2021, sthe country’s largest industries that provide employment for Cambodians, such as tourism and textiles, have been impacted. Household wages and financial stability have changed significantly and the economy is estimated to have contracted by 3.1% in 2020 alone, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Despite this decrease, ADB predicts a 5.5% growth in 2022 as the economy will recover as the border has reopened.
At the moment, the recovery has proven to be slow going as key areas of the economy remain volatile. This holds true for areas such as the service sector, which continue to be hit hard by the slowdown in domestic and international tourism. For many of our youth whose education and professional experience relies on tourism and hospital, they have struggled to find and maintain a job over the last two years. This not only affects their livelihood, but their families, and we feared we would see an increase of youth dropping out of school.
As a result, PEPY has been providing stipe-ends to scholars and our communities’ families who were facing food insecurity so that no youth would get left behind during this crisis. Through the entire crisis, our team has been working overtime to identify job opportunities and openings for all of our youth and will continue until our employment rates return to 100%. While we are emerging from this stressful time and over 90% of our youth have been able to get back to work, we wanted to give you some insight into their harrowing experiences over the last few years.
To shed light on the extent of impact COVID had on PEPY community, we invite you to hear from two of our youth who recently shared their stories:
One of the many bright individuals PEPY has aided is Chiva, a 23-year-old from Slaeng Spean, Srei Snam District. Chiva received a scholarship from PEPY in 2017, and entered the PEPY Learning Center Program where he was taught English, computer, and soft skills. He then went on to study IT in University of SE Asia. Although he had gained so many professional skills it was still a difficult time for Chiva during the beginning of the pandemic.
When the outbreaks started, he lost his first teaching job and the entirety of his university courses shifted online, making it a challenge to communicate with professors and peers. The pandemic also affected Chiva’s relationship with his family. Chiva comes from a family of 5, and since the pandemic started, he had not had the opportunity to physically see them due to many lockdowns and other challenges.
Chiva tries his best to keep up communications through phone calls and texts however he misses them very much and wishes that he could visit. With the unprecedented circumstances caused by COVID-19, Chiva did not have the means to support his family or himself. He shared, “for my father and brother-in-law, both of them got sick and I can’t support my younger sister for study [by myself].” To help make ends meet, Chiva went to go live with his uncle who agreed to support him through his university.
In January, 2022, Chiva got a steady job at the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Technical Education Center! He now works as a computer teacher at the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Technical Education Center in Siem Reap doing.
He hopes to send as much money as he can back to his family, to support his sister and himself again. Chiva hopes in the future to get a job working for the government and carry-on teaching Cambodian youth ICT skills.
Great work Chiva!
Our second bright alumnae is Sophary, a 22-year-old from Chrouy Neang Nguon Commune, Srei Snam District, Siem Reap. Sophary joined PEPY’s Scholarship and Learning Center Programs after high school in 2017. She completed her degree in Tourism from University of SE Asia in 2020. Due to the impact of COVID-19, Sophary lost her job and went back to her hometown in May 2020. She experienced many difficulties, however, she pushed through and decided to look at the bright side; she was able to spend quality time with her family and did various volunteer and social work with other fellow PEPY students.
Throughout the difficult time of unemployment Sophary and her family relied on her father’s income for full support. However, when the tourism sector started re-bounding, Sophary found her current job as a receptionist at Cheathata CTA Hotel in Siem Reap and is now able to occasionally send a portion of her money back home to her family and simultaneously support herself. Sophary is grateful for her time at PEPY where she was able to learn the vocational skills that apply to her current role. This opened many doors for her in terms of work.
For 2022 she is looking forward to continuing to grow her skills and continue her learning. She shared, “[I have] one big goal; to learn an additional language other than English!” At the top of her list are Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, three languages that she is very interested in. She added, “The language I want to learn the most is Korean.” Additionally, in a few years, Sophary has big dreams of starting her own hospitality service and standing on her own two feet!
We wish her the best on her journey and we are excited about her future!
We would love to take this opportunity to thank our students, Scholarship team, business partners, and our entire community, for their incredible hard work and dedication throughout the pandemic. We are in awe of our students and their resiliency. As we continue to rebuild the economy together, we are so happy to be working alongside our students and alumni to bring a better future to Cambodia.
With special thanks to Marjan, a volunteer who contributed the research and content for this blog post.