Nearly 100,000 Cambodians were sent to work overseas last year, an increase of 12.6 percent compared with the previous year that saw about 85,000 workers migrate, according to a Ministry of Labour report.
The report, issued yesterday, said that last year Cambodia sent 96,338 labourers to work abroad, an increase of 12.6 percent over the 85,576 workers in 2016.
“The seven countries Cambodian workers have been working in include Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and South Korea,” it said.
The report added that Thailand received 87,909 of the workers, while South Korea received 5,967, Japan 2,280, Singapore 138, Malaysia 27, Saudi Arabia 12 and Hong Kong five.
Labour Minister Ith Samheng said yesterday during an annual meeting at the ministry to discuss migrant worker issues that about 1.2 million Cambodians work overseas each year, sending nearly $2 billion in remittances every year to their families in Cambodia.
“They do not only send a lot of money to their families at home, but they also gain professional skills once they return home to contribute to developing our country,” Mr Samheng said.
Cambodian workers are usually employed in agriculture, construction, within industries, fishing and as housemaids, he said.
Long Dimanche, the Cambodian ambassador in South Korea, said in November that the Cambodian community totalled more than 60,000 people. Of these, about 8,000 are women with Korean husbands and about 400 are students.
Mr Dimanche added that their salary was up to $1,200 or $1,300 per month in agriculture. In industry, it would be $1,700 or $1,800. Annually, Cambodians send about $300 million via the banking system to their families, he said.
However, Prime Minister Hun Sen last week called on Cambodian people who are working abroad with low wages, or wages close to what they could earn at home, to return home and fill labour force voids as the country’s labor conditions continue to improve.
Mr Hun Sen said that workers’ incomes were increasing in the Kingdom, but some companies and enterprises still faced labour shortages.
“For this lacking of labour force, I want to recommend to all companies and enterprises that there is a way to attract workers to work – give them higher wages and better accommodation,” he said.
In 2017, the minimum wage for garment workers was $153 per month, and it is set to increase to $170 in 2018.
However, Dy Thehoya, a programme officer at labour rights group CENTRAL, said yesterday that the increase in workers leaving the country for jobs shows that economy conditions have not improved for them as wages are still too low and jobs hard to find.
“There are two reasons for this increase. First, there are not enough jobs in the country and second, local jobs pay less,” he said. “But for me, I do not want to encourage our people to work overseas because the protection system for them is still low. They are still at risk with migration.”
Almost 1,000 Cambodian workers were repatriated from overseas last year, marking a significant increase on 2016, according to a Foreign Ministry report released in January.
The report said the ministry, embassies and consular services last year helped repatriate 986 people from Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, China and Japan. In 2016, a total of 816 Cambodian workers were sent home.