Among the financial burdens mentioned by garment workers, were rising food costs, crippling loans, rising rent prices and the need to send money to family.
On September 10, the National Council on Minimum Wage set the 2021 minimum wage at $190 per month for workers in the textile, garment, and footwear industries, with Prime Minister Hun Sen adding two additional dollars on the agreed number, bringing the total to $192.
Garment’s sector employee Kheang, who works in a factory in Chak Angre commune, doesn’t think the rise is enough.
“It would be good if rent was not also increasing,” she said, adding that her landlord has consistently increased her rent year on year.
Besides the rent, Kheang said she spends $60 to $70 on formula milk for her child every month as well as sending money home to her family.
Garment worker Thoeun Sokha, who is employed by Top Summit Garment Inc, said the two dollars increase is not suitable, especially for the hard work they do.
She said that her wages are already eaten up by increasing food prices, medical expenses and rent, all while she has to send money home to support her child and mother in the province.
Khoy Davi, a garment worker near Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone, said the current minimum wage is not substantial enough for her to live on and she has to top it up by also selling products online.
“However, the money you can earn online is not as good as it used to be, since COVID-19 hit,” she said.
“I have a loan to pay every month, which costs me over $100 per month alone,” she said.
“I do not think increasing the wage to $192 will ease my family’s economic issues,” she added.
Cambodian Labour Confederation’s President Ath Thorn told Khmer Times recently: “The two-dollar increase for the workers helps them. But, if the rent goes up, it will be harder for them,” Thorn said.
Secretary-general of Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), Ken Loo, told Khmer Times on Friday that garment factories were still suffering amid the pandemic.
However, GMAC representative Nang Sothy said that although the figure may be tough for employers, it is acceptable and not too much of a burden for overseas investors.
The Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights Programme Manager Khun Tharo told Khmer Times last week the $2 increase is not a challenge for workers.
“The increase in wages, albeit less than originally asked for by workers, is positive. Amid the global economic downturn, reduction in orders and the withdrawal of EBA, the increase is a good outcome,” he said.
“The first priority is to ensure job stability for workers, when they have a job they will be able to afford daily living costs as well as debt repayment,” said Tharo.
“Second priority is to take care of those who have lost their jobs and continuing to support workers who have been suspended. We must ensure they do not lose their legal entitlements,” he said.
According to the National Bank of Cambodia’s report for the first six months of 2020, industrial product exports fell by 12.5 percent.