What is life like for young Cambodians (15-30 year olds) and how are they participating in civic life?
In our nationally representative survey, respondents were asked which values from a list they felt were
most important to their lives. The three that came out top were health, education, and support from parents.
Keeping their family in good health (62% very important) and having an education for themselves or their family (60% very
important), are priorities for young people aged 15-30 years old. This is closely followed by having support from parents
– 59% said it is very important to them.
Hopes and aspirations for young people revolve around economic security, however life stage has an
impact on the challenges and responsibilities they face.
Overall, finding a job is the biggest challenge young people say they are facing. 15-17 year olds, however, are much less
likely to say this, with a third of this age group saying they are not facing any challenges.
Challenges around employment
The pandemic has had a widespread impact on Cambodians. Nearly half surveyed raised the
impact of COVID-19 on employment as a national issue.
Not having sufficient networks to secure a job is also perceived as a challenge, especially amongst lower socio-economic groups.
Young people report that a lack of money can make following their chosen career path more challenging – preventing them starting or extending a business, attending costly career training courses to improve their skills, or enabling them to continue to higher education.
Interests, issues and inspiration
Internet (in particular social media) and smartphone use is high for young Cambodians, whilst traditional media platforms like television and radio are becoming less popular.
Young Cambodians use the internet for connecting and socialising with others – through social media sites and messaging services – as well as for entertainment and keeping up to date. Different social media platforms serve young Cambodians in different ways; whilst Facebook is used for socialising, and getting information, YouTube and TikTok are more likely to be used for entertainment.
Almost two-thirds (65%) report feeling knowledgeable about local and national issues, however over a quarter (26%) do not
– this is especially prevalent amongst those in rural areas, men, younger age groups (15-17s) and and non-internet users.
Parents are considered key influencers for young people, their main sources for personal information and their most
trusted sources. Many also consider parents and family members as role models for how they live their everyday lives,
their values, attitudes and even their career choices.
Apart from family and friends, young Cambodians tend to look to figures that can inspire them. Some of the most
common examples given by young people.
What are young people’s attitudes towards civic participation?
Young Cambodians show positive attitudes towards civic engagement; 86% agree that young people should be able to
voice their opinions (with over 1-in-5 strongly agreeing) and 87% agree that if young people come together to voice their
opinions, we can get more done.
In general, those who are more educated, in more skilled employment, and often slightly older are more likely to have
positive attitudes towards expression of opinion, collaboration and the impact of individual action.
Most agree young people should be able to express their opinions, and this is driven slightly by older youth (18+).
Young people report feeling more confident expressing their opinions with peers than with elders – and are split in how valued
they feel they are by elders. Those who are comfortable expressing their opinion with elders tend to be older (18+), women and
those who are more educated, while students are more comfortable expressing their opinions with peers.
Young Cambodians are also more likely to agree that action can happen when people come together. Qualitative results show that
most young people feel they should be engaged in issues and help to solve them as youth are seen as the driving force for change and development.
How are young people currently participating in civic life?
29% report having discussed local or national issues with others.
Participation in traditional forms of civic life – such as raising a concern with elders, attending a meeting, or volunteering
in the community, is low.
Young people are more likely to be expressing views online /social media (43%). These activities tend to be done more
by men than women. However, topics like politics remain sensitive and little discussed.
What are young people’s barriers and motivators for civic engagement?
Whilst the majority of young people agree that individual or collaborative action can lead to change, their agreement is
influenced by how knowledgeable they feel and how equipped they are with information about relevant issues: over a
quarter (26%) of young people report not feeling knowledgeable about local and national issues.
Less conventional forms of civic engagement, such as using digital platforms to express views online, reading and circulating
news, or belonging to an online community, are more appealing than traditional civic activities like raising a concern with
elders, attending a meeting or volunteering in the community.
Young people only tend to express their opinion online about light-hearted content, like entertainment. They do not talk
about sensitive topics or politics for fear of being judged by others.
Barriers to participation also include digital skills, access to information and generation gap
Digital skills tend to be higher among men, those in urban areas and those with greater access to technology. Although
the majority (87%) of young Cambodians use social media sites/apps, high use does not necessarily translate to high level
skills which could limit their ability to participate or discuss online.
Access to information: Over four in ten (41%) claim they find it difficult to get information about local and national
issues that matter to young people like them. This tends to be higher among women (43% compared to 38% of men) and
younger age groups (51% 15-17s compared to 40% of 18-24s and 36% of 25-30s). Those who are living in rural areas and
with low education levels particularly face challenges to access information and digital media. In turn this may hinder their
ability to participate and discuss civic issues.
Generation Gap: Young Cambodians do not all feel comfortable discussing their opinions with elders. This may impact
their ability to participate; they are less likely to agree they feel confident raising a concern with elders (84%) than with
peers (90%), and feel they are less likely to be included or valued in discussions with elders in their community.
Other key barriers and enablers:
- Politics is perceived as a hot issue but is not widely discussed. Young people report that both themselves and their
family members are fearful of being connected to any political issues as it may be perceived as taking the side of a
party – this causes them to worry about their security.
- Young people and media practitioners feel there is limited information or news on media relating to politics. Moreover,
politics is viewed as a complicated topic to understand and engage with, and a lack of trust in related news and limited
capacity to identify fact from fake news are further barriers to engagement.
• Basic needs are considered more important than participation, especially for those from lower socio-economic groups –
livelihood is the priority, restricting time available to participate in activities in local communities.
• Permission to participate in civic life from family/parents can also play a role in limiting participation. Parents are
more likely to be sensitive to anything about politics or corruption and restrict their children from any related activities.
For details research study: research-briefing-cambodia-k9-civic-life-study-june-2021.pdf (bbc.co.uk)