Cambodia Socioeconomic Survey 2004


Living conditions in Cambodia have improved considerably between 1993 and 2004, the period covered by the Cambodia Socioeconomic Surveys (CSES). Life expectancy at birth increased from 52 to 60 years for men and from 56 to 65 years for women, mainly by rapidly declining infant and child mortality. Material living conditions improved substantially according to indicators on housing conditions and possession of durables. The differences in living conditions are large between urban and rural areas. The standard of living is better in Phnom Penh in almost all respects than in other urban areas, which in turn are better than the rural areas. The present report cover main aspects on selected  important subject matter areas.

Separate reports on poverty will be available in the last quarter of 2005.

Population of Cambodia

The Cambodian people were devastated by war and genocide in the 1970’s. After a 15-year period since 1980 with very high fertility and strong population increase there has been a 10-year period with rapidly declining fertility and mortality since 1995. The population increase has been sustained in both periods. New population estimates show that the population in­creased from close to 11 million in 1994 to 13.5 million in 2004. It is expected to pass 15 million by 2010 according to a revised population projection.

Population structure

With very high fertility from 1980, Cambodia had close to 5.2 million children below age 15 in 1994 constituting 47 percent of the total population. The child population size had fallen slightly to 5.1 million by 2004 because of declining fertility since 1995 but its share of the total population had fallen to 38 percent. This is because the big child population of 1994 by 2004 had reached ages 15-24. This age group of young adults entering the labour market increased from 1.75 million in 1994 to 3.15 million in 2004. They are now also entering and passing through the family formation age and will need own dwellings. These changes in the population structure have first affected the need for primary and secondary schools, then the need for jobs in the labor market, and now also the need for dwellings in the housing market.

The labour market

The special demographic phenomena of Cambodia since 1970 give its labor market unique characteristics. The very high birth rate after the Pol Pot years causes a rapid increase in the labor force – and in youth unemployment – twenty years later, from year 2000 and on. The unemployment rate according to international definitions is still very low (under one percent) but this does not describe the character of the Cambodian labor market. The vast supply of underemployed young adults in the low-productivity rural agricultural sector, ready to migrate to the urban areas to work in modern manufacturing or services is the dominant feature. The pool of young adults will continue to grow in the coming years. The first big cohort from 1980 will reach age 30 in 2010.

The labor force

Labor force age in Cambodian statistics includes all persons 10 years and older, of which 75 percent are economically active (79 percent of all men and 71 percent of all women). The activity rate peaks at around 95 percent for men in ages 25-49 and at 80-83 percent for women of the same ages. One third of the labor force has completed primary school (grade 6) or higher but the terrible depletion of higher educated people during the Pol Pot years can only slowly be replen­ished. Only 4 percent of the labor force in 2004 has upper secondary or postsecondary education.

Industry and occupation

The share of the labor force in the primary sector, mainly agriculture, has decreased from 75 percent in 1999 to 55 percent in 2004 giving room for an increase of employment in higher productivity modern manufacturing, notably the garment industry, and in urban services. A majority of households still take part in crop production, 83 percent in the wet season and 34 per­cent in the dry season. The average yield per square meter measured in riels is about 1,200 (30 US cents) in the wet season and riels 800 (20 US cents) in the dry season. Paddy rice is by far the most common crop.

Educational attainment and enrolment

43 percent of women aged 25 and over have none or only some education (not completed first grade). The corresponding figure for men is 20 percent. Only 0.4 percent of women have post-secondary education, and 1.8 percent of men. Adult literacy rate, population aged 15 and over, is 60 percent for women and 80 percent for men. Some 3.7 million (55 percent) of the population aged 5-24 years were enrolled in the formal school system in 2004. The share has increased from 46 percent in 1999. Of the 20-29 year old in the labor market in 2004 some 17 percent have completed lower secondary school.

Educational expenses

Educational expenses per student for one school year include school fees, tuition, textbooks, other school supplies, gifts to teachers, and contribution to building funds. Households estimate educational expenses to below riels 50,000 (US $10) for pre-school and primary school students, for upper secondary to riels 393,000 (just below US $100), for technical/vocational riels 1.1 million (just above US $250), and for university riels 2.1 million (just above US $500).

Indicators of mortality

Infant mortality declined from 93 deaths per 1,000 births in 1998 to 66 in 2003. Child morta­lity declined from 31 deaths per 1,000 children 1-4 years old in 1998 to 17 deaths in 2003. Life expectance at birth increased from 52 to 60 years for men and from 56 to 65 years for women in as short a period as five years.

Indicators of morbidity

About 10 percent of Cambodians are in “bad” or “very bad” health condition according to layman health status evaluations done by household heads or spouses. About 4 percent or 538,000 of the non-institutionalized population have some disability as reported by the household heads. Seeing, moving and hearing difficulties at old age dominate. In an average month about 18 percent of the population have experienced some episode of illness, injury or other health related symptom. Illness rates are highest among children under age 5 (25 percent). They are lowest among teenagers. From age 20 the rates rise steadily to over 40 percent among the oldest (age 65 +), women’s rates slightly higher then men’s.

Access to medical care

Two out of three with an illness episode in the last month sought treatment. Average spending on medical care for persons with an illness episode in the last month was about riels 25,000 (US $6).

Prevention programs

Fully 97 percent of children below age 2 have been breastfed for some time but only 30 percent got breast milk as first food intake. 28 percent got breast milk only after the first day. Eight out of ten children are fully vaccinated and given vitamin A. However, 13 percent of children under 2 years of age have no vaccination.

As to other prevention measures, CSES 2004 reports that salt iodization is spreading rapidly so that 28 percent of households were using iodized salt in 2004.

Around 40 percent of Cambodian men over age 14 are daily smokers as compared to 4 percent of Cambodian women. Smoking prevalence is higher in rural than in urban areas. Almost 90 percent of the population know that smoking is harmful. Lowering the high prevalence rate of smoking among Cambodian men and keeping the rate low among women are very important health policy goals.

HIV/AIDS awareness is very high in Cambodia. 90 percent of the population aged 15 and over have heard of the illness and almost 88 percent mention condom use as one of the methods to avoid the illness.

About 94 percent of Cambodian households use mosquito nets but only four percent have impregnated nets.

Housing conditions

The number of occupied dwellings has increased from about 1.9 million in 1994 to 2.6 million in 2004 (37 percent), partly by population growth and partly by lower average household size. The growth of the stock of dwellings has been accompanied by a considerable improvement in the housing quality but from a very low level to a level that is still very low. Hard/permanent construction materials in roofs have increased from 43 percent of dwellings in 1994 to 71 percent in 2004 and from 34 percent to 55 percent in walls. Three out of four dwellings in 2004 have only one room. Average floor area of dwellings is 42 square meters, 8.5 square meters per person, and 3.7 persons per room.

The percent of households with sustainable access to safe drinking water has increased from 30 percent in 1997 to 48 percent in 1999. In 2004, 70 percent of households have access to safe water in the wet season and 48 percent in the dry season. 75 percent of households do not have any toilet facility in their dwellings. Only 20 percent have a modern toilet facility connected to sewerage or septic tank. Environmentally problematic is also the heavy fuel wood dependency for cooking at 93 percent, only marginally less than ten years ago.

An owner-occupied dwelling in Cambodia is worth about riels 13.6 million (US $3 400) as estimated by the owner. Only 34,000 households out of 2.6 million pay rent for their dwellings since almost all households own their dwellings. Average monthly rent paid by this group is riels 114,000 (US $29). 67 000 or 2.8 percent of all households invested in new construction or extension of their dwellings in 2004. Average expenditure was riels 4.8 million, close to US $1,200.

Durable goods

The increase of material resources in the households is most simply illustrated by possession of durable goods and the differences in living standards between Phnom Penh, other urban areas and the vast rural areas. Ownership of radios has reached 50 percent, of TV sets 46 percent, of cell phones 13 percent. Ownership of bikes has peaked at 64 percent and is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, where motorbikes have simply taken over. 73 percent of households in Phnom Penh have a motorbike but only 48 percent a bike, hence less than in rural areas.

Equipment for household work is still rare in the households. Only 3 percent enjoy a separate kitchen, 2 percent can store food in a refrigerator, 6 percent have a sewing machine, and 8 percent an electric iron. Most households have a harrow/rake, or 83 percent. Ownership of ploughs is down to 36 percent, water pump 8 percent, tractor/semi-tractor below 3 percent. This indicates the low degree of mechanization of Cambodian agriculture.

A small minority, or 1.4 percent of Cambodian households, have PCs at home, most of them in Phnom Penh. The rate in Phnom Penh is 13.4 percent but only 0.2 percent in rural areas where more than 80 percent of the population lives.

Finally, on some conveniences: 0.9 percent of households have air conditioning in their dwellings; 12 percent electric fans; 3 percent sofa sets; 30 percent bed sets; 7 percent dining sets. Owning musical instruments and sports equipment both count below 1 percent of households.


Over 70 percent of Cambodia’s population in 2004 have always lived in the same village since birth. Around 11 percent of the population have moved at least once in the five-year period 1999-2003 compared to only 4 percent in 1989-1993. The Pol Pot years affect migration only of persons older than 30 years in 2004. The data show that Phnom Penh was emptied in those years and that the peak in migration is in 1979 when people could return to their homes.

Time use

The gender division of labor is rather conventional in Cambodia according to this first time use survey done in the country. Men do more market work and agricultural and related primary sector industries while women spend more of their time doing housework (cooking, washing/cleaning, care of children and elderly and shopping). Household work (handicraft, fetching water, collecting firewood, construction and similar) is more evenly distributed between the genders.

The value of the uncounted contribution of all the women of Cambodia in housework is estimated to be riels 10.7 billion per day compared to just more than 1 billion for men. The value of household work is much more alike, or riels 1.6 billion for men compared to 1.8 billion for women.

The average leisure time for the productive generation is 4 hours per day. The differences between urban and rural areas, and between work days are rather small. Men have slightly more leisure time than women.

The data sources

The main data source for the report is the 2004 Cambodia Socio-Economic Survey (CSES 2004), while the 2004 Cambodia Intercensal Population Survey (CIPS 2004) is used for the demographic estimates. The CSES 2004 sample of 15,000 households in 900 villages is drawn from the register of villages and enumeration areas based on the 1998 population census. A nation­ally representative sample of 1,000 households in 60 villages have been interviewed each month from November 2003 to January 2004. Two teams of 125 trained fieldworkers, of which 25 supervisers, alternated monthly to do the interviews which were spread over the month. The fieldwork teams lived in the villages to help households keep records of daily expenditures and incomes in a month-long diary.

The statistical reports produced by the National Institute of Statistics (NIS) in the Ministry of Planning, with technical assistance from Statistics Sweden, are not meant to be exhaustive reports on this rich data source. The primary data files will be made available for further analysis to external analysts in other ministries, international organizations and university researchers according to the procedures specified in the 2005 Law on Statistics.