Skills Needed for Cambodia to Thrive in Industry 4.0

Kanika Nhil
Cambodian Education Forum
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
January 3, 2021

Image: Intelitek


In the age of digitalization, all countries in the globe, especially developing countries, have made tremendous efforts to keep up with technological advancements. The fast pace of technological changes in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, known as Industry 4.0, transforms the way people live, work, and connect to one another (Gray, 2016). The existence of Industry 4.0, through technological integration, plays a central role in industrial and economic development for both developed and developing countries.

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2020), Industry 4.0 can broadly be defined as the adoption and integration of information and communication technology (ICT) in industrial manufacturing. The two components that constitute Industry 4.0 are the digital application derived from the cyber-physical system and the connectivity in the manufacturing industry (UNDP, 2020). The cyber-physical system is the system used to connect the physical world to the cyber world. That includes the internet of things (IoT), big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), 3D printing, hybrid production systems, and cloud computing. The connectivity is more about networking, sensing between the cyber and physical world, and sharing data analysis.

The transition from relying on typical manufacturing to automated manufacturing facilitated by high technology has made progress of eliminating some of the jobs by replacing them with AI and machine learning (Gray, 2016). In this regard, the future of workforce will need many preparations in terms of specialized skills to keep its own pace with the radical change in the spheres of increasing development. Moreover, the result of Industry 4.0 does not only drive the cutting-edged technology but also requires the country to further invest and strengthen the human resources development (Maisiri et al., 2019). In Cambodia, because there is a lack of professional and skilled labor in the country, the need to address the skill gap required for Industry 4.0 should receive a more in-depth discussion.

Challenges facing the working industry in Cambodia

The emergence of Industry 4.0 has shaped human development in ways that are utterly different from how the first, second, and third industrial revolution changed the society. The role of Industry 4.0 in a developing country like Cambodia is considered a double-edged sword. From the positive point of view, it provides a wide range of opportunities to both human resources development and economic acceleration. However, on the negative side, it creates a huge barrier for people who lack technological and computing skills to survive in the new job markets that are all connected with digitalization.

With regard to the challenges of the country to adapt to the new revolution, Cambodia’s readiness for the future of production was ranked 81st for the structure of production and 91st for the driver of production among 100 countries, according to the World Economic Forum (2018). The assessment clearly shows how Cambodia is still lagging behind in advancing itself in terms of the future of production with the technological integration and connectivity. Moreover, the barriers that the country has recently encountered in adapting itself to the new digital economy are the lack of infrastructure, skill mismatch, ineffective regulatory framework, financial limitations, and insufficient skills in integrating the technology into the working industry (UNDP, 2020).

As technology acts as an enabler in shaping the economy in this new revolution of Industry 4.0, some of the jobs in Cambodia such as those in the garment industry, agricultural sector, and machinery industry will soon be replaced by automated machine (Chhem et al., 2019).  The replacement of human workers with automation reflects a limited and low level of education and skills needed in the new era of development. Given the threat of unemployment due to Industry 4.0, more skilled workers are required to help the country to catch up with the new trend of digital economy and labor market transformation.

Skills needed in Industry 4.0

Despite the fact that there is a controversial debate regarding how the presence of Industry 4.0 will soon affect the current job market leading to many job losses, the technology will, in turn, give a rise to many new job opportunities and strengthen the remaining jobs to fit in the new industry and make it more productive (Chhem et al., 2019). As Cambodia aspires to transform its status from a lower-middle income country to an upper-middle income country by 2030, the need to introduce and sharpen the new skills required to adapt to the rapid changes in the labor market should be paid with greater attention. The requirements of new skills in Industry 4.0, according to the “Future of Jobs” survey conducted by the World Economic Forum (2016), are related to system skills, content skills, cognitive abilities, and social skills.

With regard to the system or digital skills such as data analysis and data-based decision, most of the businesses and manufacturing industries shift its system from manual work to the more sophisticated use of IoT and big data. The skills correlated with the data analysis is one of the most important and solid skills in driving most of the major working forces as it serves as a tool to store and generate useful digital information (World Economic Forum, 2016). So, when talking about data, it always comes with the understanding of AI and machine learning associated with the integration of ICT. ICT literacy learning as a part of content skills has been placed on high demand as a skill to be equipped. In the business industry, data analytics and employees’ basic knowledge of ICT not only help to retain the information of production but also improve the products and boost more innovative creations to meet customers’ demands (Geissbauer et al., 2016).

Of all the necessary skills, cognitive abilities including creativity, logical reasoning, mathematical reasoning and visualization, and the process skills, also known as critical thinking, play a pivotal role for workers to adapt to the new labor force. Creativity is also one of the most obvious skills for people to improve in order to compete with the rise of robots and machine learning occupied with some of the jobs in the industry (Gray, 2016). As Cotet et al. (2017) point out, in the technological era, the three most important skills that facilitate the employees’ job are creativity, emotional intelligence, and proactive thinking. As the new technology will act as a tool to improve job productivity and some of the existing jobs will soon be replaced with automated machines, the need to be more innovative in creating new skill sets is vital (Maisiri et al., 2019).

Although the requirements of new skills in the context of Industry 4.0 seem to be connected with technological and computing skills, social and soft skills still perform a significant role in helping workers to be more flexible for the job transformation. Emotional intelligence skills such as communication, collaboration, and teamwork play a major role in interacting with the AI and automated machine. Although robotic machines have taken most of the manual work, the need for human intervention is still significant. The increasing use of AI in the working industry to enhance productivity requires human-machine interaction involving social skills (Maisiri et al., 2019). This implies that without humans operating the machine and establishing more simplified creations in assisting the industry, automated machines and AI are nothing in producing the end products.


To conclude, Industry 4.0 is regarded as the most crucial aspect of Cambodia’s manufacturing industry and economy. However, it can be a two-edged sword. While it creates a new opportunity for Cambodia to catch up with other countries and boost its economic growth through the integration of technology and cyber-physical system into the workforce, it also poses threats to people in the country in terms of job losses due to the replacement of manual works with AI. Therefore, the need for the country to invest more in strengthening workers’ skills to match with the requirements of the future jobs in Industry 4.0 should be taken into serious consideration. To do so, there should be joint efforts from all relevant stakeholders such as the government, universities, non-governmental organizations, and development partners. To ensure Cambodians are ready for the future job market, the government needs to put in extra efforts to promote innovative research, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, creativity, and critical thinking skills by integrating them into students’ learning programs and providing workers with more opportunities to be trained on skills needed for Industry 4.0.


Chhem, R., Ouch, C., Song, S., Roth, V., Srang, S., & Liv, Y. (2019). Industry 4.0: Prospects and challenges for Cambodia’s manufacturing sector. Cambodia Development Resource Institute.

Cotet, G.B., Balgiu, B.A., & Zaleschi, V.C. (2017). Assessment procedure for the soft skills requested by industry 4.0. MATEC Web of Conferences, 121, 1-8.

Geissbauer, R., Vedso, J., & Schrauf, S. (2016). Industry 4.0: Building the digital enterprise. PwC.

Gray, A. (2016, January 19). The 10 skills you need to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution. World Economic Forum.

Maisiri, W., Darwish, H., & Dyk, L. V. (2019). An investigation of industry 4.0 skills requirements. South African Journal of Industrial Engineering, 30(3), 90-105.

United Nations Development Programme. (2020). Adaptation and adoption of industry 4.0 in Cambodia. United Nations Development Programme.  

World Economic Forum. (2018). Readiness for the future of production report 2018. World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum. (2016). The future of jobs: employment, skills and workforce strategy for the fourth industrial revolution. World Economic Forum.

The Author

Kanika Nhil is currently an intern at Cambodian Education Forum (CEF). She is a senior student pursuing a Bachelor of Education in English at the Institute of Foreign Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh, and a senior student majoring in International Relations at the Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia.

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