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Labour optimism as remittances rise

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An employee works at a garment factory in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Labour optimism as remittances rise

Total remittances from Cambodian migrant workers rose last year in spite of the continued economic crisis brought on by Covid-19, according to new figures from the labour ministry, while local wages and remittances exceeded a combined total of $6.7 billion.

According to figures released at a meeting convened by the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training to review 2021 results and set the agenda for 2022, 1.4 million domestic workers at the 13,571 enterprises registered in Cambodia received a total of $3.7 billion in wages in 2021, while 1.3 million Cambodian migrant workers sent a total of $3 billion in remittances back to the Kingdom, up from $1.2 billion in 2020.

Ministry spokesperson Heng Sour told The Post on February 28 that the increase in remittances made by workers abroad could be attributed to additional financial incentives offered by employers.

“During the Covid-19 crisis, enterprises in countries such as South Korea and Thailand – where many Cambodians work in food canning or packaging factories – have maintained their production chains, which sometimes offer overtime [pay] and bonuses. This led to wages being increased,” he said.

Sour added that the continued growth of the manufacturing sector – which includes the garment industry – has had a positive knock-on effect on other sectors such as construction and tourism, the latter of which faced a huge slump as a result of border closures during the pandemic.

The employment and income of Cambodian workers abroad has also propped up the Kingdom’s economy and society, as such funds have helped to support their families that have remained in Cambodia, he said.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the value of local and foreign workers’ wages would determine Cambodia’s economic activity.

He added that despite a decrease compared to the pre-pandemic period, wages so far have indicated that production activity has continued to be stable even during the pandemic.

Vanak expressed optimism that the value of both foreign and domestic workers’ wages will continue to increase.

“Cambodia’s economic activity, as well as that of its partner countries, are all pointing to an increase in demand for labour, so the income rate of both domestic and foreign Cambodian employees will continue to grow,” he said.

A report from the labour ministry reveals that there are 1,301,609 Cambodian workers overseas, of which Thailand is home to the most at 1,220,197. South Korea came a distant second at 45,866.

Other countries and territories with a sizeable Cambodian migrant worker population include Malaysia with 23,027, Japan with 11,453, Singapore with 821, Hong Kong with 202, and Saudi Arabia with 43.

These figures indicate that Vietnam and Laos do not host Cambodian migrant workers.


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