The Cambodian government has increased the minimum wage for the garment and footwear sector by $6, to $200, far below the $19 increase proposed by unions.
The government, unions and employer associations have been debating next year’s minimum wage, with employers wanting no increase on account on global and financial uncertainty because of the Ukraine-Russia war, whereas unions wanted a $19 increase to $213 because of increasing consumer prices.
The Minimum Wage Council met on Wednesday, and 46 of its 51 members voted to increase the wage to $198, while five members voted for $213. There are 17 members each from the government, employers, and worker unions.
Prime Minister Hun Sen added an additional $2 for workers, only for those who have completed their probation period.
Yang Sophorn, president of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions, said she was disappointed with the decision of the wage council, especially the 12 union representatives who voted with the government and employers.
She said workers would find it hard to deal with the increasing cost of living.
“It still can’t fit the workers’ living conditions,” she said. “If the workers do not work extra hours or on the weekend, they won’t be able to live.”
Garment sector exports have rebounded after the Covid-19 pandemic, with the government reporting $13.7 billion in exports as of July, a 30% increase over the same period in 2021. The U.S. – often the target of the government’s ire — accounted for 43% of these exports, or $5.7 billion.
The minimum wage increased only $2 for the last two years, with the government and employers pointing to the Covid-19 pandemic as a reason for minimal increase.