Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Many jobs ‘vulnerable’: UN report

Many jobs ‘vulnerable’: UN report

A young boy washes a motorcycle in central Phnom Penh earlier this year.
A young boy washes a motorcycle in central Phnom Penh earlier this year. Pha Lina

Many jobs ‘vulnerable’: UN report

The persistence of dangerous and demeaning forms of work remains a major challenge for the Kingdom’s development, according to the UN’s annual Human Development Report (HDR) launched yesterday by the United Nations Development Programme.

Dubbed "Work for Human Development", the 2015 report finds the Asia-Pacific region home to the highest prevalence of trafficking, child labour and forced labour, with the latter accounting for 56 per cent of the global 78 million.

In Cambodia, some 64 per cent of total employment is deemed “vulnerable employment” by the International Labour Organization, characterised by inadequate earnings and conditions inimical to fundamental rights.

Cambodia this year achieved a “medium” ranking in the Human Development Index, scoring 143 of 188 countries and registering improvements in life expectancy, education and per capita income.

But experts inside the country pointed to the document’s call for governments to implement policies addressing inequitable realities in their labour markets.

“The reason for limited opportunities for decent employment is the dominance of low value-added manufacturing and a large informal sector,” says Napoleon Navarro, senior policy adviser at UNDP Cambodia.

“Upgrading of jobs requires Cambodia to take advantage of regional value chains that offer higher value added. It is no longer about creating just any job.”

Navarro noted that the additional challenges posed by Cambodia’s low level of human capital, which he said were being addressed by government reforms to the education sector.

Despite these obstacles, the 2015 HDR singles out the Kingdom’s readymade garment sector as a model for labour standards in a globalised world.

“Low wages and compromises over working conditions are not essential for maintaining competitiveness in export markets,” it says, pointing to the positive effects for workers and industry alike of Cambodia’s agreement with the United States to adhere to workers’ rights in return for increased imports.

Labour rights groups, however, were quick to take issue with the UNDP’s characterisation of Cambodia’s industry as a success story.

“It is a dangerous claim to hold up Cambodia as global benchmark, and one that would come as disturbing to many garment workers,” says Joel Preston, a legal consultant with the Community Legal Education Center, pointing to overtime, short-term contracts and low wages, which compel workers into conditions akin to forced labour.

“We have very blurry lines between the private sector and government,” he explained, “with a minimum wage only $8 above the poverty line, it is very hard to take seriously that the government is making any effort to provide dignified work.”

Garment Manufactures Association of Cambodia spokesman Ken Loo yesterday categorically dismissed Preston’s characterisation of short-term contracts, but declined to comment on the broader report.

The Ministry of Labour was not available yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Cambodia planning new border checkpoint at Thma Da

    Cambodia is looking into the possibility of opening a new Thma Da Border Checkpoint with Thailand to boost trade and tourism. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said on December 4 that Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol led a technical working group