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Job security low as unemployment drops

The economy is growing rapidly and productivity improving, but when it comes to enjoying decent work, most Cambodian workers are missing out, new statistics reveal.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) released the latest data from its EU-funded project Monitoring and Assessing Progress of Decent Work this week, showing that despite an improving environment, including low rates of official unemployment , 75 per cent of workers are in vulnerable jobs.

This includes the self-employed or ‘own account’ workers such as street stall holders and drivers but also unpaid family members, helping out relatives in business and at home.

David Williams, from the ILO regional office, said making growth ‘inclusive’ was a challenge faced by other fast growing economies but that business employers also had a role to play.

“It’s not just up to the government, it’s up to companies making a healthier workforce,” he said.

The ILO project maps the development of Cambodia’s labour market over the past decade and shows how political stability and rapid growth have seen the number of those living below the poverty line drop from 36.1 to 30.1 per cent and annual growth in labour productivity rise 4.4 per cent.

However, work itself is less solid, with more people working excessive hours than before and women’s wages are falling further behind men’s, even as real wages increase.

Mouen Tola, head of labour programs at the Community Legal Education Center, said one explanation for the mismatch in growth was that the number of unemployed was lower than those living under the poverty line.

He said basic wages, though they might seem high on paper – such as a garment worker’s wage of $US73 a month – could include attendance bonuses that weren’t always paid, reducing the real wage.

“Other industries, like people working in restaurants, only get $40 a month. So how do you survive?” he said.

Once the ILO ‘s updated Decent Work Profile for Cambodia has been digested by government, employers’ and workers’ organisations, the organisation hopes policy debate will follow.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rosa Ellen at



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