Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Many jobs ‘vulnerable’: UN report



Many jobs ‘vulnerable’: UN report

A young boy washes a motorcycle in central Phnom Penh earlier this year.
A young boy washes a motorcycle in central Phnom Penh earlier this year. Pha Lina

Many jobs ‘vulnerable’: UN report

The persistence of dangerous and demeaning forms of work remains a major challenge for the Kingdom’s development, according to the UN’s annual Human Development Report (HDR) launched yesterday by the United Nations Development Programme.

Dubbed "Work for Human Development", the 2015 report finds the Asia-Pacific region home to the highest prevalence of trafficking, child labour and forced labour, with the latter accounting for 56 per cent of the global 78 million.

In Cambodia, some 64 per cent of total employment is deemed “vulnerable employment” by the International Labour Organization, characterised by inadequate earnings and conditions inimical to fundamental rights.

Cambodia this year achieved a “medium” ranking in the Human Development Index, scoring 143 of 188 countries and registering improvements in life expectancy, education and per capita income.

But experts inside the country pointed to the document’s call for governments to implement policies addressing inequitable realities in their labour markets.

“The reason for limited opportunities for decent employment is the dominance of low value-added manufacturing and a large informal sector,” says Napoleon Navarro, senior policy adviser at UNDP Cambodia.

“Upgrading of jobs requires Cambodia to take advantage of regional value chains that offer higher value added. It is no longer about creating just any job.”

Navarro noted that the additional challenges posed by Cambodia’s low level of human capital, which he said were being addressed by government reforms to the education sector.

Despite these obstacles, the 2015 HDR singles out the Kingdom’s readymade garment sector as a model for labour standards in a globalised world.

“Low wages and compromises over working conditions are not essential for maintaining competitiveness in export markets,” it says, pointing to the positive effects for workers and industry alike of Cambodia’s agreement with the United States to adhere to workers’ rights in return for increased imports.

Labour rights groups, however, were quick to take issue with the UNDP’s characterisation of Cambodia’s industry as a success story.

“It is a dangerous claim to hold up Cambodia as global benchmark, and one that would come as disturbing to many garment workers,” says Joel Preston, a legal consultant with the Community Legal Education Center, pointing to overtime, short-term contracts and low wages, which compel workers into conditions akin to forced labour.

“We have very blurry lines between the private sector and government,” he explained, “with a minimum wage only $8 above the poverty line, it is very hard to take seriously that the government is making any effort to provide dignified work.”

Garment Manufactures Association of Cambodia spokesman Ken Loo yesterday categorically dismissed Preston’s characterisation of short-term contracts, but declined to comment on the broader report.

The Ministry of Labour was not available yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • Floods prompt evacuations in Kampong Speu

    Rain-induced floods and water flowing from Kampong Speu province have submerged the houses of 1,527 families living close to the Prek Thnot River in Spean Thma, Tien, Kong Noy and Roluos communes in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, according to data from local authorities. Spean Thma

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from

  • Cintri strike ends, workers’ contracts to be terminated

    CINTRI (Cambodia) Ltd rubbish collectors who have been on strike for the past 13 days agreed to return to work starting Wednesday evening after the company agreed to terminate their contracts at the end of January next year and provide seniority payments and other benefits to