A secretary of state with the Ministry of Economy and Finance has announced his support for the continued migration of workers to other countries where they often earn higher wages, arguing that it does not hamper the national economy.
Vongsey Vissoth made the comment last week during a conference at the ministry called Cambodia’s Economy: Performances and Outlook, where he argued that worker migration should not be a concern.
“Migration is a normal thing,” he said. “It is free movement of labour in the world. For our workers who work in South Korea, they can get more than $1,000 per month, so we should encourage them to work there and facilitate things for them.”
Mr Vissoth said that Cambodians working abroad earn high wages and then send the money back home, funnelling it into the national economy.
“What we have to do is encourage them to go to work, then we have to protect their rights when they arrive there in case they are abused, and the third point is that we have to help them with social security after they complete their work and come back home,” Mr Vissoth added.
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 last month, 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 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 has said that about 1.2 million Cambodians work overseas each year, sending nearly $2 billion in remittances every year to their families in Cambodia.
However, Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on Cambodians 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 labour 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. It increased to $170 in January.
Dy Thehoya, a programme officer with labour rights group Central, said yesterday that he disagreed with encouraging Cambodians to migrate to work overseas.
Mr Thehoya said it meant the Cambodian government was unable to find jobs for them in their own country.
“To work overseas is the choice of the workers themselves, but it doesn’t mean the government should push or encourage them to migrate,” he said. “I don’t agree with this encouragement.”