March 7, 2023
PHNOM PENH – Prime Minister Hun Sen has advised two ministries to provide financial support, starting from April, to workers in the textile-related sectors who were suspended from work or whose factories were shut down. He also allowed relevant ministries to increase cash for pregnant women and child under 2 for them to receive adequate nutrition.
Hun Sen gave the instruction while presiding over a graduation ceremony for 1,728 students from the Institute of New Khmer Generation, held in Phnom Penh on March 6.
He said the current global economic situation was not good, including in the US and Europe. Though the problem is not serious as yet, he said it affects the global economy through inflation.
He added that the global crisis had also affected the product orders for goods made in Cambodia, especially in the garment and footwear sectors, which reduced their operations due to the loss of revenues.
To address the crisis in Cambodia, he ordered Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng and Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth to come up with an urgent response and launch the cash assistance programme to help vulnerable garment workers.
“I’ve received a report from a trade union which knew my WhatsApp number. The union sent me a message saying that the number of suspended factories have increased. The workers are requesting that we intervene,” he said.
“I conveyed the request to Ith Samheng and Aun Pornmoniroth. So, let’s discuss a response to this issue. The number of workers affected is not as high as at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. So, we have to discuss the suspensions with factory owners.
“We may do something like … the government provides 40 per cent and factory owners contribute 30 per cent, starting from April,” he said.
Hun Sen also recalled that the government has been helping workers since 2008 in response to global crises, and that the current situation is not too serious for the government to address.
“As for the loss of income: If a person used to buy three shirts per year, but because their income has dropped or prices have gone up while their income hasn’t, they might then only buy one shirt per year. So, market demand has also declined in crisis-hit countries, especially in Europe. If the demand in these countries falls, then their orders for our products also decrease,” he stated.
Hun Sen also advised relevant ministries to increase the available cash for pregnant women and children under 2 for them to receive adequate nutrition. In case the two ministries could not offer this policy this year, they are required to implement it next year.
“In the previous day, when meeting with the Cambodia National Council for Women, I also told the Ministry of Social Affairs to increase the amount of cash for women who receive four pregnancy checks. So, they will be provided with cash four times,” he said.
“When they give birth, we have to assist them until their babies reach age 2. We have to assist them eight times or in a year four times until the children reach age 2,” he added. “So, we have to increase the amount of money. For example, when a woman gives birth, we provide her with 200,000 riel to 300,000 riel [$50 to $75].”
Labour ministry spokesman Heng Sour said the two ministries are preparing to roll out the cash assistance programme as advised by the premier.
“As of February 28, 2023, a total of 71 factories had suspended contracts of employment. These factories employed nearly 32,023 workers. Of the number, 34 factories in Phnom Penh employed a total of 12,010 workers. Thirty seven factories in the provinces employed 20,013 workers,” he noted.
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), lauded the measures to launch the programme, saying they are falling victim to the global crises at this time.
He added that even though the situation that Cambodia encounters at this time do not seem to be serious as at the height of the pandemic, he wanted more assistance from the government.
“On behalf of the workers, I am very happy with the assistance for the workers who were suspended from work or became victims of factory closure. They continue to have a serious problem of spending. We would like to see this assistance increased further to help ease their burdens,” he added.
Kaing Monika, spokesman for the Textile, Apparel, Footwear and Travel Goods Association in Cambodia (TAFTAC), said his association was worried about the recent closure and suspension of some factories.
However, he said: “We are working together with the government and stakeholders to try hard to mitigate impacts caused by this worsening global economic situation.”