Working conditions in Cambodia. 90% don’t get paid leave.


In the Cambodian economy there is a gorilla in the room – the question of fair pay and fair working conditions. A new survey says that 90% of paid workers don’t even get annual leave.

One thing we’ve always tried to do at Savong School is to act as a fair employer. For sure, nobody is going to get rich on our salaries – but there are other elements of fairness including paid sick leave and annual leave so that our staff continue to get paid regardless of whether it is holidays or whether they fall ill (or are in bereavement for a family member.)

Quite apart from whether these practices are required by law (technically they are in Cambodia, but a report released today suggests that 90% of workers receive neither form of leave) it just seems a mark of simple respect.  For that reason we also provide a token bonus gift each October for the Pchum Ben holidays –  a sign that we support Cambodian tradition, but also that we understand how those in employment are often expected to contribute to others (family, monks) during this period.

The report in the Phnom Penh Post below makes disappointing reading.

This report from the Phnom Penh Post – December 2nd.

Only about 10 per cent of Cambodia’s workforce is being granted paid annual leave, a report released last week says.

Under the 1997 Labour Law, workers who work a standard 48-hour week are entitled to 18 days of paid annual leave, in addition to one day off per week.

But according to the Cambodia Labour Force 2012 report, released on Thursday by the International Labour Organization and the Ministry of Planning’s National Institute of Statistics, 90 per cent of regular employees are not being given any paid annual leave – a figure that is similar when it comes to paid sick leave.

“According to the responses … only 9.5 per cent of them were allowed any annual paid leave and only 10.4 per cent had provision for paid sick leave,” the report says.

These figures relate only to the 46 per cent of the workforce considered “employees”, rather than those who are self-employed (33 per cent) or contributors to a family business (20 per cent).

Ou Tepphallin, vice-president of the Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation, said the beer promotion sector was one in which only workers at a select few companies were given annual leave.

“Not only do [most] not get annual leave … they have to work seven days per week without getting a holiday,” she said yesterday. “If they want to take time off, their salary will be cut.”

Tepphallin said that some workers did not even know what the Labour Law was and would benefit from more regular government inspections.

Sat Sakmoth, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, and In Khemara, director of the ministry’s inspection department, could not be reached.

Dave Welsh, country manager for labour-rights group Solidarity Center, said that for industries other than the garment sector – which is responsible for more than 85 per cent of Cambodia’s exports – the report’s statistics “are not surprising”.

“Outside of the garment sector, unless you’re working for an international hotel, workers and their [bosses] are probably not aware of it [the Labour Law requirement],” he said. “But it is a violation of the law.”

Within the garment sector, compliance is much greater, Welsh added.

The report surveyed 9,600 households across the country.

“By industry, the largest proportion of the employed population was engaged in agriculture, at 33.3 per cent, followed by 17.5 per cent in wholesale and retail trade and 17.4 in manufacturing,” it says.

See also: How much do workers get paid in Cambodia?