IN response to economic forecasts that have been "continually revised downwards", the UN Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP) released a report last week announcing a series of initiatives intended to provide immediate support for laid-off factory workers and other Cambodians struggling during the global economic crisis.
The report, released Friday, was a follow-up to a conference that took place on July 15 and 16, during which UNIAP and a variety of other organisations met to analyse the effects of the crisis in Cambodia and formulate a coordinated response.
UNIAP National Project Coordinator Lim Tith said UNIAP had decided to put initiatives into action as quickly as possible.
Without special effort to expedite the process, he said, "Plans may only be approved after the crisis is finished."
UNIAP and its partners concluded that though the effects of the economic crisis will be felt across the economy, workers in sectors driven by exports and foreign investment are especially at risk. These sectors include tourism, construction and the garment industry.
Several initiatives discussed at the conference have already been put in place. This month, UNIAP and its partners, including the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), launched a magazine titled Precious Girl, which was distributed to factory workers and includes information on job training, financial literacy and avenues for reporting exploitation and abuse.
Lim Tith said plans were being developed to make microfinance lending and vocational training more widely available for laid-off workers, though no dates have been set for those programmes.
Times are rough
The UNIAP report estimates that anywhere between 20,000 and 60,000 garment industry workers have recently been laid off due to the economic crisis and low-cost competition from countries including Bangladesh and Vietnam.
Ny You, a communications officer at the International Labour Organisation, praised UNIAP's efforts to help those workers, but said they required more comprehensive protections.
"[Workers] need social protection - benefits and care," he said as he called for stricter enforcement of labour laws and the establishment of job centres and retraining programmes.