The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training will now allow foreign workers to make up more than 10 per cent of certain enterprises’ staffs if they cannot find local workers to fill positions.

The announcement was signed by labour minister Ith Sam Heng in mid-August and said enterprise owners who fall under the scope of Article 1 of the labour law can file a request to employ an increased amount of foreign workers.

The announcement further said the measure can be implemented if the enterprise cannot find enough Cambodian workers to fill their staff.

“To employ foreign workers, enterprise owners or managers must make letters asking for permission with written contracts of employment of each foreigner attached. Any enterprise owners or managers or any persons who infringe on regulations of the announcement are to be prosecuted according to the labour law,” it said.

Ministry spokesperson Heng Sour told The Post on Sunday that the decision aims to meet the needs of full-time production chains which operate 24 hours per day.

Workforces in the night entertainment, agriculture and construction sectors were still lacking, Sour said.

“If enterprises cannot find or it is difficult to find Cambodian workers, they can recruit foreign workers. We need production chains 24 hours a day. If they have work but can’t find Cambodian workers, we need to be open to any workers,” he said.

According to a ministry Prakas issued in 2014 on the employment of foreign workers in the labour sector, enterprise owners or managers must recruit Cambodian workers as a priority.

The Prakas dictated that less than 10 per cent of workers in a labour job could be foreign.

The Center for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights (Central) executive director Moeun Tola said he was surprised at the ministry’s decision.

He said the ministry should not have made this decision because currently, Cambodian citizens returning from abroad are facing unemployment.

“The ministry’s report said citizens returning from Thailand are not less than 130,000. So, do these people have jobs? Their main priorities are debts. I think that allowing more than 10 per cent of foreign workers to work seems to open an opportunity to compete between foreign and Cambodian workers,” he said.

Tola observed that even though Cambodia has yet to have a law allowing enterprises to employ more than 10 per cent of foreign workers, some enterprises, especially in the agriculture sector, had already employed a huge workforce of foreign workers.

Tola said he is concerned that making this legal could cause Cambodia to become a transit point for human trafficking.

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