Cambodia’s ministry of economy and finance (MEF), which launched its new strategy for the garment, footwear and travel goods (GFT) sector recently, has identified two priority areas for the industry that need to be strengthened: upgrading production to manufacture higher-end goods and adopting more environmentally sustainable production methods.
So far, the domestic industry has been focused on what the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) 2021 report on the garment industry in Southeast Asia described as the ‘cut-make-trim business model’. It is the lowest-value segment of the supply chain, depending on importing raw materials, equipment, and designs. It relies on a low-skilled workforce and a labour-intensive model driven by low wages.
Ken Loo, secretary general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), doesn’t see the industry’s workforce as being exactly low-skilled. “Upskilling is what is needed, and it’s always been a part of training the workforce,” he said while agreeing with the MEF’s point of needing to create more upstream and downstream industries in the country to support the sector.