In a bid to reassure European shoppers concerned with unfair labour practices, Germany’s state aid agency GIZ has pledged €1.2 million ($1.3 million) to a new program focused on enhancing Cambodia’s labour inspections system for the garment sector.
GIZ-Cambodia announced the implementation of the two-year initiative at a signing ceremony with the government in Phnom Penh yesterday.
Dr Monika Lueke, the program’s coordinator for GIZ, said that the money will primarily be spent on advice and technical support to the Ministry of Labour.
“Why now? Because in Europe, there is more and more attention being paid to sustainable production, fair wages, factories where the workers can stay in good health, and good environmental standards,” she said, noting the Cambodian economy’s heavy reliance on garment exports.
“We’re at a crossroads. Cambodia needs to do something to remain competitive.”
GIZ’s program is also operating in Pakistan, Bangladesh and China, Lueke said.
Cambodia’s inspection system is often beset by a lack of qualified staff and funding.
Last October, the US State Department reported that due to budget constraints, the Labour Ministry’s child labour department only conducted inspections in the Phnom Penh area.
William Conklin, country director of the Solidarity Center, welcomed GIZ’s program but warned that a lack of either funds or technical expertise was far from the only challenge.
“The inspectors . . . need to be able to objectively report and need to do it without fear or repercussions or reprisals, and obviously without the temptation of bribes,” he said.
“You can throw all the money you want and it won’t necessarily do much.”