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Grim findings on wages after COVID-19 struck

Harrison White / Khmer Times Share:
The falll in wages in different sectors as a result of COVID-19. Supplied

A nationwide COVID-19 economic impact study has found that overall salaries across Cambodia have decreased by around 30 percent in just four months (between January and April this year) with entertainment and sex workers reporting an 85 percent decline in income.

The study titled “The Effect of Covid-19 on Wage Workers” by Future Forum and Angkor Research and Consulting was supported by The Asia Foundation and the Australian government.

The study also, most critically, found that one in four workers reported receiving no salary during April, up from one in 25 in January.

The study concluded, “While impacts were not distributed evenly between all workers, workers without a formal contract had lower wages than formal workers before the pandemic and this gap has widened further between January and April,” it said.

“Similarly, workers with low or no education had far larger salary reductions than those with higher education. There were also significant differences by geography and employment sector. Workers in the provinces generally reported larger reductions in salary than those in Phnom Penh. Finally, workers in the agricultural sector reported a 25 percent reduction in income compared with entertainment and sex workers who reported an 85 percent decline in income,” it added.

The report did not provide any specific policy detail for stakeholders in conjunction with the findings.

However, it stated that the study’s purpose was to undertake a random sampling of Cambodian households with a view to identifying the economic effects of COVID-19.

The results will provide policy stakeholders an opportunity to explore key findings from each round of data collection throughout the project, it added.

According to the methodology, the study utilised a cluster-based sample selection at the provincial, district and village level.

The survey was described as a longitudinal study focused on wage workers, families with micro/small enterprises and farmers in Kampot, Kampong Speu, Svay Rieng, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

In response to the economic fallout of the pandemic, the Government implemented its “IDPoor” programme to pay $25 million per month to more than 560,000 poor and vulnerable families as well as requiring furloughed businesses in the tourism and manufacturing sectors to continue supporting their employees.

Nongovernmental organisations have repeatedly asked the government to provide further assistance to both entertainment and sex workers after it ordered the closure of KTV establishments and nightclubs in response to COVID-19.

In June, a group of entertainment workers asked the Ministries of Labour, Women’s Affairs and the Council Minister three times to provide $40 for being suspended from work, but their requests were rejected.

Minister of Labour Ith Samheng issued a letter to the group encouraging them to find new jobs. The ministry also said, “The government already has a subsidy package in place for families adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Asian Development Bank has estimated that Cambodia will suffer 390,000 job losses this year from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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