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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Garment sector falling victim to own success

Garment sector falling victim to own success

7-garment-workers.jpg
7-garment-workers.jpg

Staff shortages force closures

TRACEY SHELTON

Garment workers leave a factory on the outskirts of Phnom Penh after finishing work for the day. Several garment factories have been forced to close because the could not recruit enough workers, a union official said, claiming inflation had eroded wages to the point that factory work was no longer attractive.

The garment industry is becoming a victim of its own success, with expansion in the sector contributing to a serious labor shortage, factory owners and industry officials say.

Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Kingdom’s largest labor group, said five garment factories have closed since March because they could not hire enough staff.

“Other factories will also have to shut down because they cannot get any workers,” Mony told the Post on June 2.

He said some factory administrators had asked him to help find workers but the situation was “hopeless”.

Mony said inflation was one of the key reasons why some workers had given up their jobs, which pay an average of $55 a month.

“They can’t make money because goods and gasoline are so expensive,” he said.

Among those who have sought Mony’s help to recruit workers is Bun Tha, chief administrator at the New Mingda Garment Co., Ltd factory in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district.

Tha said the factory had recently expanded but had postponed a decision to increase production because of the labor shortage.

“We need to recruit another 1,000 workers but we can’t get them,” he said.

“There is strong competition for workers because every factory is short of them,” Tha said.

“It doesn’t matter if they have no experience because we can train them.”

Tha said some workers had given up their factory jobs to return to the provinces and set up their own businesses. Others had left their jobs after making money from land speculation.

Srun Bunny, an administration assistant at South Bay Garment Co., Ltd, said the company’s factory in Meanchey district had also been affected by the shortage.

“We need to recruit another 400 workers,” Bunny said, adding that the situation was mainly due to the increase in the number of garment factories.

“It’s difficult to recruit more workers,” he said. “We have placed recruitment announcements in various places, including other garment factories, but we are only handling a few applications a day.”

Outside the factory, a security guard was encouraging bystanders to come in and apply for a job.

Oum Mean, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, said the shortage had begun in the middle of last year, when the number of factories began to increase.

“It is a good sign for Cambodians and shows they will have more job opportunities as more companies in different sectors come to invest in our country,” Mean said.

Cambodia has about 500 garment and footwear factories, which employ about 400,000 people, he said.

“The opposition party accuses the government of not finding jobs for people, but now there are more jobs and not enough people to fill them,” Mean said.

Cheath Khemara, senior labor officer with the Garment and Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said some factories were trying to retain their workers by offering them more pay.

The expansion of the garment sector was the main reason for the shortage, Khemara told the Post.

He said other factors included workers finding jobs in other sectors, such as tourism, or preferring to leave Phnom Penh to work at garment factories in the provinces.

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