The Land Management Ministry has released a report which says the number of workers in the construction sector during the first nine months of this year has dropped by more than 30 percent when compared to the same period last year.
However, its findings are being disputed by the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia, which claims the number has in fact increased owing to the growing number of construction projects in the Kingdom.
In its report, the ministry said it recorded an average of between 147,450 and 150,000 people working daily in the construction sector from January till September, of which between 43,400 and 43,500 were in Phnom Penh alone.
“The number of construction workers in Cambodia dropped 31.81 percent in the first nine months this year if compared to the same period last year when the average was between 200,000 and 220,000 workers per day,” the report noted.
The ministry said the report was compiled by officials who went directly to construction sites to gather information.
The report noted that unskilled workers in the construction sector can earn from $7.50 to $10 daily, skilled workers can get between $10 to $15 while engineers, architects and other professionals are paid from $400 to $2,500 monthly.
Seng Lout, ministry spokesman, declined to comment on the report yesterday.
Sok Kin, Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia president, yesterday said that according to his estimates,the number of construction workers has not decreased as stated in the ministry report.
He said that because of big projects in the sector, the number has in fact increased by more than seven percent.
“I do not think the number of construction workers has decreased,” Mr Kin said. “Just look at the building sector boom over the past three years in Preah Sihanouk and other provinces which have tourism attractions. Bigger and higher buildings are mushrooming.”
However, he noted that he could not comment on whether the ministry’s figures were accurate or not.
“I think that if the number of construction workers has decreased, it may be due to poor work conditions, safety concerns or low wages,” Mr Kin said. “These reasons could be why our workers are going abroad to find jobs.”
He suggested that the Labour Ministry speed up the implementation of directives aimed at ensuring workplace safety for construction workers and the provision of safety equipment, proper living quarters and social security schemes.
“When these directives come into effect, our construction workers will be protected from site accidents like the ones that occurred recently,” he noted. “The government should also consider requests for a minimum wage for construction workers.”
On Monday, the bodies of 21-year-old Sok Sambath, 35-year-old Yem Tin and 31-year-old Thim Thirong were pulled out of an elevator shaft at a construction site in the capital.
Their colleagues suspect all three victims died after their scaffolding collapsed during the installation of an elevator.