Cambodia: Survey on garment workers’ lives

The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MLVT) is conducting a survey on garment and other workers’ living conditions and the impact of COVID-19 until July 31.

According to an announcement, MLVT has informed all owners or directors of enterprises/establishments and workers in the textile, garment and footwear sector and relevant authorities that the General Secretary of the National Council on the Minimum Wage has been conducted on a random sample of employees selected in Phnom Penh and provinces and asked to cooperate.

When asked what is the purpose of the survey and what will be the government’s measures to further assist laid-off workers affected by COVID-19,  Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour declined to comment, saying that the survey is the Ministry’s internal work that is conducted every year to submit to the National Council on the Minimum Wage.

Ath Thorn, president of workers union, Cambodia Labour Confederation (CLC), expressed concern about the results of the survey, saying they may be changed and inaccurate.

“I mean that if they find the real issues facing  workers and provide support or solve those issues, that is pretty good, but if they find nothing about the challenges it will be a problem for workers who lose their jobs,” he said

“We have experience with surveys conducted by the government, such as the survey on the minimum wage. The government always finds that workers are ok and in fact they are not,” he added.

According to Thorn, as of the last two weeks, referring to figures from the MLVT, more than 410 factories have been suspended affecting 240,000 workers.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced in early July that 70,000 laid-off workers received wage assistance from the government of $40. Losing a job means no revenue and 90 percent of workers have loan from banks, microfinance institutions or rural creditors, according to Thorn.

Thorn said so far buyers are still not placing new orders and the situation currently is still bad for the garment sector. He said another concern is that when the situation returns to normal and garment and textile suppliers in the world release their products to the market, Cambodia will face tough competition because the country will lose 20 percent of the Everything but Arms (EBA) trade tariff with the European Union (EU).

“It’s a global issue but what the government needs to do is to provide support assistance to laid-off workers so they can survive, help employers not to close factories and they need to diversify to some products that we can export to the international market,” he said, adding that the government needs also to talk with the EU about the EBA deal. “I think if the government and EU work together they can resolve this issue,” he said.