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Ministry toughens teen labour ID requirements

Garment factory employees walk along Veng Sreng Boulevard last year after finishing work.
Garment factory employees walk along Veng Sreng Boulevard last year after finishing work. Hong Menea

Ministry toughens teen labour ID requirements

The Ministry of Labour has announced new regulations for hiring workers between the ages of 15 and 18, toughening identification requirements in a sector plagued by the use of fraudulent documents.

The prakas, active since November 20, requires young workers to show at least three different kinds of identification documents to employers.

Meanwhile, employers are tasked with sending the papers of workers they suspect are underage directly to the ministry’s child labour and occupational health departments, along with keeping lists of all young workers they employ.

Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said the announcement would ensure proper working conditions for Cambodia’s young workers.

“In the past, we have stipulated that children could not be employed, but in the prakas, as in the International Labour Organization, there are rules about using the labour of a person between 15 and 18 years old,” he said.

According to the prakas, employers must ensure their young workers do not work in dangerous conditions – a stipulation already in the existing Labour Law – and do not work overtime on Sundays and between 10pm and 5am on regular workdays.

Sour said workers in the agricultural sector, rather than factories, were most prone to such violations.

But Moeun Tola, head of the labour program at the Community Legal Education Center, said that the prakas was a clear acknowledgement that numerous underage workers faked their records to work in factories.

“The long-term effects of this are lost nutrition for [physical] development and loss in education and vocational training,” he said.

The prakas leaves it largely up to employers to report workers they suspect of being underage.

Tola said employers who knowingly employ underage workers should be punished with criminal charges to truly end the practice, although this rarely, if ever, happened.

However, Ken Loo, spokesman for the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said factories are already encouraged to check across multiple identification documents, while factories gained nothing from knowingly hiring children who would be remunerated as adults.

“In cases [of child labour] we have identified in the past, it is from workers faking identifications,” he said.

Still, not all cases of fraud come from those below the legal working age of 15.

Mao May, a garment factory worker in Prey Veng, said in an interview yesterday that he began working at 15, but that his employer told him to pretend to be 18 so he could work the same overtime as an adult.

“For the recruitment, my father used another person’s name,” he said, declining to provide the factory’s name.

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