Cambodia’s 700,000 garment and footwear workers currently earn a minimum wage of $128 a month. Last year, the lowest legal salary for Cambodian workers in the $5.7 billion industry was only $100 per month.
The Labor Advisory Committee — a governmental body of union members, employers and officials — is currently working to decide on how much the country’s minimum wage for garment workers should increase for this upcoming year.
Kong Athit, secretary general of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, told WWD that there is still disagreement on the minimum wage amount.
“We found out what the workers need, so we’re just telling [the ALC] this is what they need,” he said. “If what the workers need will cause the industry to die, then there’s a problem.”
Labor rights organizations IndustriALL and the Solidarity Center recently interviewed over 700 Cambodian garment workers about their living expenses and their take-home salary. According to the research, average expenditure for a worker was $207.50 a month, while their salary totaled $214.
Athit told WWD that the minimum wage should actually be around $178 a month ($50 less than it currently sits), after taking away some unnecessary items like the “costs of mobile phones or alcohol.”
Last month, the Myanmar government finally approved its first minimum wage for garment workers. A standard eight-hour day now legally requires that workers be paid at least 3,600 kyat, or $2.80 at current exchange. The country’s approved minimum wage adds up to roughly $67 a month for a six-day week.
Some workers expressed disappointment in the minimum wage amount, saying that 3,600 kyat a day is still too low. Conversely, employers have also opposed this amount on grounds that productivity in Myanmar is supposedly too low.
“This discussion is over as this is what the government has said already so we must follow it. We will do what we can do,” Myint Soe, chairman of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association, said. “Everything is discussed already with our members on how to cope with the 3,600 kyat [daily wage].”
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