Only 43 Cambodians have arrived in Hong Kong to take up jobs as domestic workers, far below the original number of 1,000 the government targeted.

At the end of April, Hong Kong’s Immigration Department had issued only 43 working visas to Cambodians since the Hong Kong government announced in April last year the relaxation of the requirements to allow Cambodians to work, study and visit the city, Sing Tao Daily reported.

The owner of an employment agency blamed the lukewarm response in Cambodia on the culture – Cambodians like to stay with their families and are not interested in working overseas claimed Anvunhak, the owner of Cambodian employment agency Top Manpower said.

However, an estimated one million Cambodians work in neighboring Thailand, many of them illegally. Cambodia’s biggest employer is the garment and footwear industry, which offer salaries of up to US$250 per month.

But those who can’t find work in the factories mostly go to Thailand, while some domestic workers have been finding work in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, but there have been many cases of abuse reported.

A staff member of employment agency Ung Rithy Group said many Cambodians prefer to go to Japan and South Korea as factory workers, but are not willing to go to Hong Kong to work as domestic workers.

In Hong Kong, Filipino domestic workers are preferred as they have a better command of English than Cambodians. Cambodian employment agencies also charge high rates to find overseas jobs, sometimes up to 40%.

The Labor Department said they would continue to liaise with the Cambodian government and employment agencies to try to attract more Cambodians to work in Hong Kong.

Read: 1,000 Cambodian maids due to arrive in HK in December