Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday that in 2023 garment and footwear industry workers can expect a minimum wage of at least $250 per month.
Speaking to thousands of garment workers in Phnom Penh’s Por Senchey district yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said that in 1997, Cambodia had only 64 factories with more than 80,000 workers who earned only $40 per month.
He added that now there were more than 1,100 garment and footwear factories where workers earned $153 per month in 2017 and $170 starting this year, which could add up to more than $200 including other benefits.
“If we compared the wages of workers last year and this year to other countries, we see that Cambodia’s wages are higher than some countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar, Indonesia, Laos and Pakistan,” he said.
“The income of workers seems to increase every year, but we have to think about the risks. If we do not have serious measures, the factory will move to a country with a lower salary than Cambodia and then the government will lose more than $40 million a year, but the wage for workers still must be increased every year.”
The premier added that the CPP political platform to be implemented in 2019-2023 outlined approximate figures for the minimum wage of garment workers.
“According to economists’ estimates, in 2023 the minimum wage for garment and footwear industry workers will be no less than $250 per month,” Mr Hun Sen said.
“I emphasize that in order to assure more and more income, workers have to ensure peace. Our stomach problems are very important,” he added, meaning that when workers protest they lose income and have less to spend on food.
Kaing Monika, deputy secretary general for the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said yesterday that the wage level would adjust itself to the labour market, which would help ensure survival and competitiveness of the Cambodian private sector in general, not just for the garment and footwear sector.
“Of course, it’s a big concern for our labour intensive industry. I think it might be more appropriate and practical to a larger extent to let the market economy decide on the wage level rather than trying to regulate it so much. It’s the economy that will pay, not the law,” he said.
“I’m afraid we would price ourselves out, unless we could continue to maintain smooth and harmonious industrial relations between the management and the workers together with upgraded skills and competency as well as move up the value chain of our products.”
Mr Monika added that all forms of support from the government would be of utmost importance, particularly in terms of a reduction in the cost of doing business.
Far Saly, president of the National Trade Unions Coalition, supported the plan of increasing garment workers’ wages and said he thought they should get between $200 and $210 per month in 2020.
“We are in a situation where we compete with other countries, so we cannot demand more than the affordability of providers, but we still demand increased wages for workers,” he said.
He added that workers could live decently with a minimum wage of $200 per month, which would be between $250 and $270 combined with other benefits.