112 garment factories open in 2020

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The garment workers leave from a factory in Phnom Penh last year. Heng Chivoan

In a tumultuous period for the garment industry, the year 2020 brought the closure of 129 factories in the Kingdom, affecting over 70,000 workers while 112 new factory openings created more than 20,000 jobs.

Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour shared details with The Post on January 10, citing the Covid-19 pandemic as the primary cause for the loss of 71,202 jobs, of which 57,794 were held by women.

Job losses, however, were partially offset by the opening of new garment factories which have provided employment for 23,208 workers, of whom 17,638 are women.

“Conditions in the labour sector are gradually normalising in the beginning of this year. The entire garment sector in Cambodia can return to normal if the Covid-19 crisis ends,” Sour said.

Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, told The Post on January 10 that this has been the second time since he started working in the garment industry that he has seen such widespread factory closures and job losses.

Sina observed that in 2008, Cambodia and much of the world was battered by an economic crisis, leading to the shuttering of many garment factories and many factory owners fleeing from indebted businesses. In time, the industry recovered.

“For this New Year, I see that conditions may improve as many countries order vaccines against Covid-19 for their people. As vaccinations are rolled out, economic activities and trade will recover. People will go back to work again,” Sina said, adding that garment workers who had been laid off could find new opportunities for employment.

At the end of last year, the government announced a seventh round of stimulus measures to mitigate the impact of the crisis on key sectors of the economy.

In the latest provisions, the government extended a programme providing $40 per month for the first three months of the year to workers with suspended contracts. Employers in the garment sector are required to provide an additional $30 for each furloughed worker, bringing the total monthly subsidy to $70.