Background information on garment sector
The garment industry is Cambodia’s largest employer, employing more than 850,000 people and generating over US$10 billion annually. The minimum wage for garment workers is US$190 per month, however this still falls short of the estimated living wage of US$588 per month. As of January 2022, the minimum wage is set to rise by US$2, less than inflation and the US$12 rise unions were calling for. Some garment workers are also eligible for bonuses and allowances for food, attendance and seniority.
The European Union represents the largest market for Cambodian garment exports, accounting for approximately 40% of total manufacturing, followed by the United States (30%), Canada (9%), and Japan (4%). Brands sourcing from Cambodia on our tracker can be viewed below.
In February 2020, the European Commission decided to withdraw part of the tariff preferences granted to Cambodia under the European Union's Everything But Arms' (EBA) trade scheme because of serious concerns over violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Cambodia’s manufacturing association (GMAC) has requested the EU to postpone the partial withdrawal of the EBA to allow businesses to recover from the pandemic. The partial withdrawal came into effect on 12 August.
The 2020 ITUC Global Rights Index – which rates countries on a scale from 1 (best) to 5+ (worst) on the degree of respect for workers' rights – rates Cambodia as 5, indicating workers have no guarantee of internationally recognised labour rights.
Impacts of pandemic
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 265 garment factories have suspended operations as a result of fashion brands cancelling, reducing and not paying for orders, resulting in job losses for over 130,000 garment workers, however unions estimate the number of job losses is higher at 200,000. This number is likely to rise, with up to 300,000 garment workers vulnerable to losing their jobs. Cambodian manufacturers and unions have appealed to buyers, asking them not to cancel orders and fulfil existing contractual obligations.
Wages & social protections
Clean Clothes campaign estimates that in the months of March, April and May garment workers in Cambodia lost a total of approximately 33% of their normal wages, equivalent to US$122 million (despite government initiatives detailed below).
Currently, suspended garment workers are eligible for a US$70 monthly payment, which is comprised of a US$40 government stipend and a US$30 contribution from employers. GMAC has been criticised after calling for the suspension of the minimum wage for garment workers during COVID-19 and for annual minimum wage negotiations to be postponed to ensure the sector remains “competitive”.
Labour and human rights violations
In Cambodia, we have tracked reports of the following rights violations of garment workers during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Unpaid wages [New Best Global Textile factory] [TY Fashion] [Quality Textile]
- Layoffs without legal severance pay [Crystal Martin] [TY Fashion]
- Union-busting in factories [Roo Hsing Garment Co. Ltd] [Superl Cambodia Ltd]
- Union leaders facing threats and intimidation [Yang Sophorn]
- Unfair mass dismissals [Youli International (Cambodia) Garment Co. Ltd]
- Lack of PPE/implementation of social distancing in factories [Propitious (Cambodia) Garment Ltd] [Horizon]
This is not a comprehensive list of violations and cases, full coverage of the impacts of COVID-19 on Cambodia’s garment sector and related industrial disputes can be viewed here. Actions taken by fashion brands sourcing from Cambodia in response to the pandemic can be viewed below.
Demands from local unions & civil society groups
Asia Floor Wage Alliance, WIEGO, HomeNet South Asia and HomeNet South East Asia are calling on brands to make a one-time Supply Chain Relief Contribution equal to 60 days of wages lost for all garment workers in their supply chains – including time-rated, piece-rated, subcontracted and home workers – during the COVID-19 crisis, as a requirement of responsible business practice.
Click below to find out more information directly from local unions and labour groups:
You can view a list of campaigns and demands by international civil society organisations demands here.
[This is a live tracker we update on an ongoing basis. If you have additional information on these issues please contact us at [email protected] with the subject line ‘COVID-19 Action Tracker’]