Cambodia Boasts 25 Official Holidays—Most in Asean World

Pchum Ben begins today, and millions of Cambodians will be enjoying several work-free days with family. But days off work come frequently in Cambodia, which has 25 holidays officially recognized by the government.

That’s at least one week more than any other Asean country, and some experts worry that too much time off is negatively affecting the economy.

Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia, said companies face a fall off in performance around vacation time as the “holiday mood” pervades the workplace in the days before and after major festivals.

“You have to deal with so many paid holidays…and long stretches of holidays seriously affect productivity,” he said.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Federation of Unions, which includes the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Asso­ciation, said the holidays are having a harmful effect on education.

“Civil servants will not show up during the few days before and after holidays,” Rong Chhun said.

“Some students not only stop coming to school around official holidays, but even unofficial holidays like Chinese New Year,” he said. The net effect is that schools some­times close for a week around major celebrations be­cause of poor attendance, he added.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said cele­brating “unnecessary” holidays is symptomatic of a growing trend of officials spending less and less time on the job.

“We used to work on Saturday, but now we don’t work on the weekend,” Son Chhay said. Some officials don’t even bother coming to work in the afternoon, he added.

However, Kang Chandararot, an econ­o­mist and director of the Cambodia Institute of De­velop­­ment Study, believes there is a definite upside to frequent national holidays.

Major industries like garment makers may be hurt by the many days off, but they are a blessing to micro, small and medium-sized businesses—especially outside Phnom Penh.

“Holidays are when people go home to the provinces and when they spend most of their money,” he said.

So, overall the country may achieve a boost to GDP when better-paid city dwellers spend their cash in rural areas.

Though the large number of days off was a deterrent to foreign investors, Bretton Sciaroni, president of the International Business Club, said that businesses have identified which holidays people are willing to work through.

“It’s not an incentive to come here,” he said.

“But I think companies have found a way to work around it.”

      (Additional reporting by Kay Kimsong and Kuch Naren)




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