This paper discusses the emphasis on raising children's livelihood skills as part of the Cambodian ‘life skills’ policy. Using policy documents and interview data with education policy makers, it discusses some major concerns with such a policy for a country where child labour is already a widespread national phenomenon. This paper argues that such a policy emphasis may blur the boundaries of where children's involvement in work ceases to be at an acceptable level. It also argues that the emphasis on local life skills, mainly of an agricultural nature, may hinder the development of children's wider aspirations for social mobility by focusing them on what is familiar and immediately relevant to their current living conditions. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.