Central market in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia

Social situation Substantial development achievements

After the civil war came to an end in the 1990s, a new start was needed in almost every area of Cambodian society. Government institutions had been smashed, the infrastructure was in ruins and almost the entire intellectual elite of the country had been murdered or driven abroad.

Against this backdrop, the progress that has been made since then is all the more remarkable. Cambodia has been achieving high rates of economic growth, and efforts to reduce child and maternal mortality, tackle HIV and AIDS, and clear landmines have been crowned with success.

Income is unevenly distributed

In 2003, half the population was still living below the national poverty line, but by 2016, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the national census, that figure had fallen to just 13.5 per cent. However, the majority of the population is living only just above the official poverty line. All it takes is a slight increase in spending needs, for example as a result of illness, for these people to find themselves plunged back into poverty. The main beneficiaries of the economic development that has been achieved are the urban elite and the still very small middle class. More than 90 per cent of the poor population lives in the country. One third of the children in Cambodia are still undernourished.

Shortfalls in public goods

The health system and public infrastructure are still being developed. The education system, too, still needs further improvement. About 75 per cent of the population now has guaranteed access to clean drinking water (2000: 42 per cent) and about 42 per cent has proper sanitation (2000: 16 per cent).

Cambodia has a young population: more than 30 per cent of Cambodians are under the age of 15. Unemployment and under-employment are already key problems for Cambodia’s economic development, and population growth is threatening to make these problems even worse.

The current Human Development Index (HDI) ranks Cambodia 146th out of 189 countries.