Over 330K workers get gov’t cash handouts

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Garment workers buy some food for their lunch in front of the factory in Phnom Penh's Meanchey district. Hong Menea

The government has disbursed about $22 million to roughly 330,000 workers have been suspended over the last nine months, but has yet to decide if the cash handouts will continue into 2021.

The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training provided cash subsidies to jobless workers on 38 occasions from March to November 20. Each eligible worker received between $38 and $76, depending on how long they had been without work.

Ministry spokesman Heng Sour told The Post on November 23 that the government would re-evaluate the economic situation in December and determine whether or not to provide subsidies to workers in the year ahead.

“In fact, the number of factories that have suspended their employment contracts is now much lower than in May, June, July and August,” he said.

There are currently about 70 factories in Cambodia that have suspended employment contracts with workers because of the Covid-19 crisis, according to the latest ministry report.

Sam Saron is an unemployed garment worker who has received financial support twice from the government. She said on November 23 that the money helped her family adjust to her joblessness, and she hoped the government would continue its handouts.

“The support helps to relieve the lack of money. Even if it cannot completely solve the problem, at least it helps 50 per cent,” she said.

Ath Thorn, president of the Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union, said assisting hundreds of thousands of workers with financial support would be an important step in helping them overcome the loss of their jobs and income.

Thorn urged the government to examine the possibility of continuing its cash subsidies in 2021, especially to workers in economic sectors that have been hit hard by Covid-19. He recommended that the assistance should continue until the economic impact of the pandemic was over.

“This allowance can contribute 30 per cent of one worker whose salary is $200 [per month]. When a factory suspends its operations, the factory should provide $40, plus additional government subsidies,” he said.

“This assistance should be extended to the other affected sectors, such as tourism, because their situation has not improved. The information we get is that there are no tourist reservations,” he added.

In addition to providing cash handouts to workers through November, the government said it had also provided $136.2 million in Covid -19 financial assistance to 659,845 poor and vulnerable families, or about 2.7 million people.

Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation secretary of state Samheng Boros confirmed to The Post that the government was considering an extension of its cash handouts to poor and vulnerable families in 2021.

He said the decision would be announced by the end of 2020.