Cambodian garment workers will get an 11 percent hike in the minimum wage to U.S. $170 a month be next year, the country's Ministry of Labor, Vocation and Training announced on Thursday.
Of the $170, $165 is to be paid by employers and $5 by the government, with the new wage taking effect as early as 2018, the ministry said.
The move comes about 10 months before July 2018 general elections, and follows an agreement in September 2016 to boost the minimum wage for the crucial sector of Cambodia’s economy to $153 per month from $140.
Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, told RFA's Khmer Service on Thursday that the raise was welcome but not enough.
“$170 is not enough for a decent living yet. However, it is a good start for this year to increase the minimum wage to this level plus other benefits offered to workers which are paid by employers," he said.
"I think more work still needs to be done on improving working conditions at factories," added Pav Sina.
In 2012, a union campaign to double the then-minimum wage of $80 resulted in clashes with police and a crackdown on public protests. In early 2014, at least four people were killed and more than 20 injured when police in the outskirts of Phnom Penh opened fire to break up a protest by striking garment workers.
With past violence and next year's elections in mind, analysts say Prime Minister Hun Sen has been trying to improve his image with the opposition-friendly labor sector. The country's long-ruling strongman Hun Sen has met with workers twice weekly in Phnom Penh recently and says he plans to meet them at every factory across the country.
Hun Sen, who had not reached out to workers during his 32 years in power, had been telling workers he's met this year he would increase the minimum wage to at least $168 by early 2018.
Wages in Cambodia remain low by international standards, largely because of pressures to compete with other low-cost production centers such as Bangladesh and Vietnam.
In 2015, the Southeast Asian country shipped nearly $7 billion worth of products to the United States and Europe. About 700,000 people work in the more than 700 garment and shoe factories located in Cambodia.
Reported and translated by Nareth Muong for RFA’s Khmer Service. Written in English by Paul Eckert.