Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Informal economy may lose over 6M jobs by Covid’s end

Informal economy may lose over 6M jobs by Covid’s end

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A woman is selling spicy salted freshwater clams in Phnom Penh's Chamkarmon district. Hong Menea

Informal economy may lose over 6M jobs by Covid’s end

Minister of Planning Chhay Than said more than six million workers in the informal economy have either lost or are expected to lose their jobs due to Covid-19, despite the government’s efforts to counter the pandemic.

Than made the remarks during the celebration of World Population Day on July 20. The virtual event was attended by senior officials from the ministries of Women Affairs; Health; Education, Youth and Sport; as well as representatives from the UN Population Fund in Cambodia and other foreign diplomats.

He said the pandemic had affected the world, with many countries facing huge losses to their economies and public health. The disease had infected and killed millions of people.

The minister said the pandemic has hit Cambodia’s tourism, export manufacturing and construction sectors the hardest, which cumulatively contribute more than 70 per cent to the Kingdom’s economic growth and employ nearly 40 per cent of the workforce.

“Because of the transmission of Covid-19, nearly 3,000 businesses in the tourism sector have suspended activities, leading to a loss of 45,000 jobs.

“Workers in the informal sector, estimated to be 6.1 million people, have lost or will lose their jobs,” he said.

The community outbreak has claimed lives and placed a lot of pressure on Cambodia’s public health system, socio-economy, people’s daily livelihoods. The situation is dragging on and the extent of transmissions is huge with nearly 70,000 Cambodians infected and more than 1,000 deaths, the minister said.

Nevertheless, Than said the government’s response to the situation was good including the introduction of the social protection fund to alleviate people’s burdens and support for the livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable, especially women and girls.

He said the government had provided support to people affected by the pandemic through a cash handout programme for pregnant workers, and poor and vulnerable households.

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Factory workers clock out in Chaom Chao III commune’s Prey Tea village in western Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district on March 18. Heng Chivoan

The government has also supported workers whose factories and enterprises have been suspended. This support also applied to workers in the tourism sector.

Sok Chhun Oeung, director of the Cambodia Informal Economic Workers Association (CIEWA), said a large number of informal workers had lost their jobs and tried to look for other jobs in order to make an income.

“Workers in the informal sector have faced much hardship, lost jobs and their income. They also have to pay debts to banks. They can hardly support their families,” he said.

According to Chhun Oeung, his association has more than 1,000 members and most of them have lost their source of income.

Vorn Pov, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), could not be reached for comment. But he recently requested the government to think of supporting workers in the informal economy.

He said all of them have been affected by the pandemic like other workers.

In June, the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training announced the launch of a post-lockdown cash handout programme of $11 million for more than 275,000 workers from 513 factories who were affected by the recent lockdowns in Phnom Penh, Kandal province’s Takhmao town and Sihanoukville.

In mid-July, the ministry provided cash assistance in the 63rd phase of its relief package to more than 3,000 workers in the garment and tourism sectors who have been affected by the pandemic.

Samheng Boros, secretary of state for the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, said early this month that the government had spent $300 million on social assistance to poor households during the pandemic.

If the provision of assistance to workers and other socio-economic rehabilitation is included, the amount increases to nearly $1 billion.

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