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Garment workers buy medicine in Phnom Penh last year. Garment workers and other formal sector employees in and around the capital will have expanded access to health care starting in May.
Garment workers buy medicine in Phnom Penh last year. Garment workers and other formal sector employees in and around the capital will have expanded access to health care starting in May. Hong Menea

Health care access to expand

An estimated 360,000 workers in Phnom Penh, Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces are set to get access to health care coverage from May 1 in the first round of an expansion of the National Social Security Fund.

Under a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen in January, the mandate of the fund – which includes more than 900,000 Cambodian workers and operates under the Ministry of Labour – is expanding to provide health insurance in addition to workplace injury insurance.

Under the new scheme, a worker contribution of 1.3 per cent of their gross monthly salary will be matched by employers, said NSSF spokesman Cheav Bunrith.

For a worker on an average wage, that will translate to about 6,000 riel (about $1.50) to 7,000 riel (about $1.75) per month.

“Compared to other countries we have the lowest [contributions],” Bunrith said.

At this stage, officials are still finalising contracts with state hospitals and a private hospital to provide coverage, Bunrith said.

However, once rollout was fully operational in Phnom Penh, Kandal and Kampong Speu, the scheme would expand by five additional provinces at a time and eventually cover the whole country, he said.

Of the estimated number of workers included in this round, about 250,000 were garment and footwear workers, said Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia deputy secretary-general Kaing Monika.

Oun Sreytouch, a 30-year-old garment worker at Win Shingtex factory, said that she could afford her contribution, but wished it was lower.

“Garment workers do not have [much] money,” she said. The minimum wage for garment workers is currently $140 per month.

Monika maintained the workers’ contribution was affordable. He cited Thailand’s rate of about 5 per cent.

“It’s just a few hundred riel a day and it provides extensive medical coverage for the workers,” he said.

The insurance scheme covered preventive health care, treatment and sick leave, said Ath Thorn, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union.

Overall, it was good for workers, Thorn said. But added that “some workers are happy, but some are not because they don’t understand” all the details.

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