Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Labor unions want big increase in 2023 minimum wage

Garment workers converging for their lunch in front of a factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, January 14, 2022. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
Garment workers converging for their lunch in front of a factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, January 14, 2022. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

Labor unions are preparing to push for a substantial increase in the 2023 minimum wage, saying current salaries lag far behind soaring costs of living.

The average factory worker needs nearly $300 per month to cover food, housing and living needs, according to research by the Cambodian Labor Confederation and the Coalition of Cambodia Apparel Workers Democratic Union. The 2022 minimum wage was $194. Workers can earn up to $289 plus benefits with overtime, but that still falls short.

“The minimum wage increase for 2022 was only 2%,” said Ath Thorn, CLC president. “It should be raised by at least $20 this year, because factories are near full employment after Covid-19 and profits are up.”

Negotiations over next year’s wages begin the third week of August. They are expected to last a month.

“No one can say what the minimum wage for the new year will be,” said Heng Sour, a Ministry of Labor spokesperson. “We must wait for the last day of the Minimum Wage Council meeting to see what happens.”

Kaing Monika, deputy secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia,​ told CamboJA that pay scales are influenced by many factors, not only workers’ needs.

“We must also consider worker productivity, factory income and competitiveness with other countries,” he said. “These are important elements.”

Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labor Confederation, says garment workers struggle to survive on minimum wage. Labor activists and workers want a base-salary increase of around 20% for 2023. CamboJA/ Ngay Nai

Oem Sophy, an 18-year-old garment worker in Preah Sihanouk province, dropped out of school and began working in a clothing factory two years ago because her family needed the money. She is responsible for taking care of her parents, and her salary is the family’s main source of income.

‘’If I work full time and overtime, I can earn nearly $300 per month,” she said, explaining that long hours were hard for someone her age.

“I would be happier if the government increased the minimum wage,” she said. “The extra money would help buy food, which gets more expensive every day.”

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