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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Jobless after decade's hard slog

Jobless after decade's hard slog

Father of seven faces uncertain future after construction downturn

MEAS Samoun hasn't had much to show for almost a decade of toiling in the construction sector. But at least he had enough to keep his family fed and his children in school.

But now that the effects of the global financial crisis have begun to be felt on Cambodia's shores, the 50-year-old father of seven doesn't even have that.

He is one of an estimated 30 percent of construction workers in the country that have been laid off as developers began delaying construction amid global economic uncertainty.

"At least 10 years I worked as a construction worker but I have saved no money," he said. "I have used it only to live day-to-day, to send my children to school and to pay for food for my family.

"Now, I am still living in poverty," he added.

The Kampong Cham province native, whose family has lived in Kampot province since 1980, has been working in the construction sector since

1999 when the cement factory both he and his wife worked at closed.

Over that time he has moved where the work is, plying his trade throughout the country but mostly in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

It was Siem Reap where he was most successful, sending home around US$100 every month  between 2006 and 2007 after paying for his own living costs.

When his job there came to an end he relocated to Phnom Penh to work on one of the many construction sites popping up all over the capital at the height of the country's building boom.

"I worked so hard every day under the bright sunlight," he said. "Sometimes I got sick but I still went to work because I had to earn money to support my family."

At the end of September he lost his job, returning to his home village of Dam Nak Loung, in Prey Khnoug district, to work as an ice-cream seller.

He is worried the small profit he makes selling ice cream will not be enough.

 He said as soon as the sector recovers he hopes to return to work in Phnom Penh.

"I need my children to go to school because I don't want them to work in construction like me."

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