The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has revealed the latest range in negotiations for next year's monthly minimum wage for textile-related sectors, which is expected to rise to just below $200.

On August 31, the National Council on Minimum Wage (NCMW) resumed discussions on the minimum wage for the textile, garment, footwear, bags, travel goods and similar sectors.

The council comprises officials from the labour ministry, factory owner representatives, industry stakeholders and workers’ representatives from civil society organisations and trade unions.

The labour ministry announced the results of the NCMW talks in a press release, stating that after three internal meetings, worker representatives had reduced their proposed rate from $215 to $213.

And after two internal meetings, employers increased their figure to $196 from $194 – this year’s minimum wage.

The ministry said that, based on seven socio-economic criteria for determining the minimum wage, the NCMW’s general secretariat had calculated a sum of $197.86 for 2023.

“The two sides continued to explain and defend their positions with professionalism and maturity.

"At this tripartite meeting, the government continued to coordinate and provide additional explanations on various points at the request of the representatives of the workers and the employers,” the ministry said.

The ministry has scheduled a fourth tripartite meeting for 2:30pm on September 21, with final negotiations to be held on September 23.

In 2021, after the NCMW had voted to keep the 2022 minimum wage unchanged from $192, Prime Minister Hun Sen stepped in to add $2 to the total.

Cambodian Labour Confederation president Ath Thorn, who attended the three tripartite meetings, hailed the positive nature of the negotiations, and said he expected the wage determination for 2023 would be favourable for workers.

He said the negotiations were very important for workers as the prices of petrol, food and other daily necessities are rising, affecting their standard of living.

"We have had many meetings to discuss and come to an accord. But in case of disagreement, the parties will hold a formal meeting on September 21 with the participation of ministers, and it then may be able to set the wage for 2023," Thorn said.

A worker at a factory in Phnom Penh who asked not to be named said that at one point a minimum wage of $197 would have been acceptable for him, but would no longer suffice for a decent living.

"I won’t even mention the price of petrol as it’s a global commodity, but the cost of fish, vegetables and fruit, for example, even local products, is so high,” he said.

Ky Sereyvath, an economist at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, noted that the wages of Cambodian workers in these sectors are around $20 higher than for their Vietnamese counterparts.

"The minimum wage in Vietnam is $175 and we are at $194, with now a likely increase to $197. So, looking at exports to Europe and the US, for example, if we were to push labour costs higher, it would affect competitiveness,” he said.