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Phnom Penh’s migrant workers: A state of surviving

As the number of garment workers and labourers migrating from the provinces to Phnom Penh seeking employment keeps increasing, finding affordable housing has become a huge problem for these workers.

This is because none, or at least very few, local and international investors seem to care about developing affordable housing for people – for instance, blue-collared and garment workers – who can barely afford the living standard in the capital. It is a housing crisis which prompted affected workers to continuously call upon the government and demand the establishment of affordable housing for people migrating to the city.

Nearly every single labourer and worker who has migrated to Phnom Penh and was interviewed by Post Property for this photographic essay have called for the same intervention; appealing for the government to prevent housing services and business from rapid and unreasonable price hikes, saying that their hard-won pay raise might as well be for nothing as it almost fully goes to the relentless increase of price.

“We haven’t any savings left to put aside even from the raise,” say most of the workers.

“It looks as if the government has forgotten we are human, too, and that we’re also Cambodian citizens.”

Below depict several moments captured of the temporary homes of these provincial migrants, who have moulded together, in spite of the odds, to become the basis of the country’s robust 7 per cent economic growth.

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A room that costs $75, in Khan Russey Keo:
This room is situated on the ground floor right next to a dirt road, and measures 2.5 by 2.8 metres with cemented flooring, wooden walls, a zinc roof, and a small bathroom. The cost of this excludes the additional $20 electricity and water fees. The tenants are one garment worker and a tailor. Their main lament is that their combined salary is nearly not enough for living essentials, including the house rent.

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A $40-a-month room in Khan Sen Sok:
Situated along a small, one-motorbike-lane road, the rooms for rent here have a bit more space at 3 metres by 5 metres. They have tiled floors, painted cement walls, a zinc roof, and a small bathroom inside. The electricity fee is calculated at the standard rate of 1,000 riel per kilowatt, for which the government has provided since two months ago. The water fee is 2,500 riel per metre cube, meaning each family spends about $7 to $8 per month. There are five people crammed in this particular room. Originally from Takeo province, they have lived in Phnom Penh for 12 years.

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A room that costs $40 in Khan Toul Kork:
The construction built mainly from wood currently looks old and unstable, situated along the rail road near Boeung Kak. Apparently, the room is built on an area of water, sized at five square metres. The wooden house has a zinc roof, and no private bathroom. On top of the house rent, additional electricity and water fees come up to $15. The room is being resided by a widowed single mother and her three children, while her eldest daughter works as a garment worker in a factory at Khan Russey Keo.

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A $70-a-month room in Khan Russey Keo:
This room measures 2.5 by 3 metres, with a basic tiled floor, an unpainted cement wall, a zinc roof, and inside – a tiny bathroom. $70 excludes the electricity and water fees, which take another $20 from the workers’ pockets. A couple and their young daughter live here, having migrated from Svay Rieng. The husband – a construction worker – and his garment worker wife only stay in the room at night or during weekends. Their young daughter is sometimes taken care of by their neighbour, but mostly stays with her grandparents in Svay Rieng. Their combined salary is capped at $300 a month, and is used largely for basic survival necessities.

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