While acknowledging that the new minimum wage for factory workers falls short of their expectations, Prime Minister Hun Manet reaffirmed the government’s commitment to providing a yearly increment, however modest. This dedication, he noted, stands in contrast to certain countries that have not granted any pay raises to their workforce at all.

Manet was addressing approximately 20,000 workers from 20 different factories in the textile-related industry, in an event held in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district on the morning of October 3.

“In recent days, there have been criticisms regarding the $4 increase in the minimum wage for workers. However, it’s crucial to understand that this situation poses challenges for every stakeholder, and the decision was guided by a formula. Therefore, we have approved a $204 minimum wage for 2024,” he explained.

The premier noted the challenges faced by both workers and employers, as they are essential components of the nation’s economic well-being. He affirmed that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has remained committed to its efforts on behalf of workers and has continuously strived to enhance their conditions.

“As the global economy experiences a slowdown, every country has felt its impact with decreased purchases and orders. We must acknowledge this situation collectively. There is no need to conceal it. Cambodia has not been the only one affected; it has impacted all nations,” he stated.

Manet said businesses in the industry face competition not only within Cambodia but also from neighbouring countries including Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar,Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.

Comparatively, he said Cambodia’s garment workers enjoy a higher minimum wage than some other nations, noting that workers receive only $90 per month in Laos; between $154 and $198 in Vietnam; from $130 to over $300 in Indonesia; $75 in Bangladesh; $69 in Myanmar; between $134 and $195 in India; and $40 in Sri Lanka.

“The government acknowledges the concerns of employers and garment workers, and we have observed that certain countries choose not to provide wage increases, putting us in competition with them,” he said.

“Consequently, despite a less substantial increase than anticipated, we took this step. I believe garment workers in other countries will view Cambodian garment workers as fortunate to receive higher wages, thanks to the government’s support,” he added.

Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC), deemed the $4 increase for 2024 as modest, suggesting that workers should have received a monthly minimum of $213. He also emphasised that trade unions should shift their focus towards advocating for considerations such as lunch allowances, transportation costs and discounts on other essential expenses.

In an October 2 post on his Telegram channel, former Prime Minister Hun Sen acknowledged that amid a global economic downturn, the wage increase for workers was positive. He underscored the importance, during these challenging times, of job retention and job creation by the government.

“I extend my congratulations to the government, garment workers and relevant institutions for their focus on three key objectives: providing a wage increase to workers; preserving existing jobs; and generating new employment opportunities. While the wage increment may be modest, it is preferable to unemployment, as it ensures a continued source of income,” he wrote.

Following negotiations and an eventual vote, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training formally announced on September 28 that starting from January 1, 2024, employees in the textile, garment, footwear, and travel goods sectors would receive a monthly minimum wage of $204 – $2 of which was contributed by the government.