While there is some uncertainty around the possibility of rental fees being raised in light of a recent decision to increase the minimum wage for garment factory workers in 2017, there is currently no signs of an impending hike by opportune landlords.
Pao Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers (CUMW), told Post Property earlier this week that even if the government and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) decided to add $13 to the minimum wage of $140 of 2016, this new minimum wage “is not sufficient for other expenses since goods and other services remain costly”.
“Based on the union’s findings, garment factory workers can only afford to rent a room that costs less than $20. Two or three of them share a room,” Sina said.
“In reality, the rental fee has reached its peak already. Even a small room has a rental fee of $35 to $50 a month.
“In fact, we cannot set a limit to these renting fees since it is a free market. It is also dependent upon other conditions.”
In the past, every time the minimum wage was increased, the cost of goods and rent also increased.
“Recently, our members reported no sign of increase in renting fees for factory workers. According to the rent control law, or specifically the Law on Special Lease, which was approved last year, landlords cannot increase the rental fee for at least two years,” Sina said.
“We, the workers celebrated this law. We hope local authorities everywhere would enforce and explain this law to the people since it’s beneficial to everyone,” Sina added.
A 50-year-old housewife, who wished to stay anonymous said, “I do not plan to increase the rental fee for now. If everyone increases, so will I.” She has seven rooms for rent.
Each room is smaller than 12 square metres and costs between $35 and $50 a month. She added, “I’ve heard about a law prohibiting us to raise rental fees. Why don’t they also limit goods prices so that it will be fair?”
Phy Rath, a factory worker in Sleng Roling village of the Sen Sok district in Phnom Penh, said.
“The room we [three] are renting costs $40 per month.” Her friend’s room nearby, which is similar to hers, will have its rent increased soon.
“I heard it will cost $5 more at the end of this year. We don’t know for certain if our wage is going to increase,” Rath said.
Yan Bunthan and his wife, who work in a shoe factory in Sangkat Teuk Thla, have rented the same room for $50 for more than five years.
He said, “When our minimum wage is increased, sometimes the rental fee is not raised. However, other goods’ prices go up higher than our wage.”
These workers have to walk a tightrope of either forking out for a higher room rental rate, or for inflated goods’ prices.
Chheng Lang, vice president of the CUMW, said “Recently, 80 percent of 700,000 workers rented a room in a group [of 2 to 5 people]. They live near their factories. Each worker spends an average of $8 to10 per month on rental fee alone.”
Meanwhile, Sina, as many others have, called on the government to develop public housing so low-income earners can improve their living standards.
“In the past, I’ve kept up with the government’s public housing investment,” Sina said, continuing, “If that’s true, the government will benefit a lot in the long run. It can also attract more foreign investors.”
“I’ve heard it will happen in 2020.”