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Labour shortages in S’Ville

An employee cuts out pieces of cloth from an apparel template late last year at a garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district.
An employee cuts out pieces of cloth from an apparel template late last year at a garment factory in Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district. Vireak Mai

Labour shortages in S’Ville

Aiming to one day become a major manufacturing base in Cambodia, Sihanoukville faces an uphill battle in attracting workers, provincial officials said yesterday.

Yow Khemara, director of the Department of Labour and Vocational Training at Preah Sihanouk province, said Sihanoukville currently lacks about 4,000 workers in all sectors, especially garments and construction.

“The challenges lie in the small population in the city with a minority of young adults, also in the geographic challenge for the coastal province,” he said.

“People from other provinces would rather choose to work in nearer provinces, which is more convenient to travel back home during holidays.”

Khemara said his department would often post announcements in nearby provincial offices hoping to attract workers, but the strategy was having little success.

The Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, which is the biggest zone in the province, has 60 operating companies onsite, which employ around 12,000 workers, mostly in garment factories.

The zone has a shortage of between 1,000 to 2,000 workers, according to Lee Ratha, human resource manager at the SSEZ.

The challenge is made tougher, he said, as the zone has another 25 factories that will begin operations soon.

“This is because the city has a small population with only around 200,000 habitants and our district especially, does not have many people,” Ratha said.

To be officially released today, Cambodia’s Industrial Development Policy details some key objectives for Sihanoukville to become a primary hub for trade, logistics and manufacturing.

The government has been working on a plan to improve infrastructure at Cambodia’s largest port as well as improving connectivity with enhancements to National Road 4 and Sihanoukville airport.

Heng Sour, spokesman for the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, said he hasn’t received any official notice of a current labour shortage problem in the coastal area, but said it could be a challenge in the future as investment increases.

Kaing Monika, external affairs manager at the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said he too wasn’t aware of any drastic labour shortfalls in Sihanoukville, but its easy access to shipping made it an important destination for growth in the garment sector.

“I haven’t received any notice so far among our 30 members in Sihanoukville.”

Some 433 companies operate in Sihanoukville, mainly in service, manufacturing and garments, according to the provincial government.

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