The Cambodian government announced a few days ago that the minimum wage of garment workers would be raised to 128 US dollars per month starting from 1st January 2015.
Though the new wage is higher than the 123 US dollars suggested by the Labour Advisory Committee, it is significantly lower than the 160 US dollars a month demanded by trade unions and workers.
A statement by the labour ministry claims that workers would be able to earn a total monthly salary of between 147 and 156 US dollars a month if transportation, seniority and other bonuses are taken into account.
The last increase of the minimum wage for garment workers occurred in December 2013 when it was raised from 80 US dollars to 95 US dollar and subsequently to 100 US dollars per month.
With standard bonuses and allowances, the base pay for the Cambodian garment industry will now rise to 145 US dollars per month and bring it on par with wages in Vietnam, a competitor with comparable working conditions and background, where garment workers are significantly more productive.
Cambodian garment workers and their unions have been taking to the streets to demand better wages. In December 2013 and January 2014, protests turned violent and caused the temporary closure of some garment factories. According to the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), which represents most of the country’s garment factories, garment workers carried out 131 protests in 2013 and 121 in 2012.
Cambodia's garment sector employs more than 600,000 workers in 800 garment factories. The production of ready-made garments is its largest export business, contributing about five billion US dollars a year to the country's economy.