Cambodia Moves to Increase Wages

From Sept. 1, workers will see their monthly wages rise to at least $73, up from the current $66, according to local reports.

SINGAPORE — Following threats by garment industry unions to hold a mega strike next month, the Cambodian government has agreed to raise wages and increase cost of living allowances, regional media reported Wednesday.

From Sept. 1, workers will see their monthly wages rise to at least $73, up from the current $66, according to the reports. As recently as 2009, the minimum wage was set at about $50.

According to Mouen Tola, head of the labor program at the Community Legal Education Center, a rights group, unions had initially requested a $20 increase.

“This is the first time the government [has held] discussions on a wage increase,” said Tola in a phone interview. Industry observers have suggested the government’s involvement was due to a flurry of occasionally violent strikes over the past two years that has afflicted Cambodia’s garment manufacturing industry, the country’s largest foreign exchange earner.

A representative of the Southeast Asian kingdom’s Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Multiple attempts to reach Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, were unsuccessful.

In April, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called on unions and garment manufacturers to “improve the atmosphere in the garment sector,” the Phnom Penh Post reported.

Salaries in many Southeast Asian nations have been increasing rapidly over the past two years. Three years ago, Vietnamese workers outside Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City made as little as $31 a month. The monthly minimum wage has since been hiked to about $40, while workers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City make upwards of $95. A proposal for a new minimum wage law was reportedly submitted to Myanmar’s parliament last week.