The National Assembly approved a third chapter of the proposed social security law on Wednesday, an ambitious effort to provide workers with retirement and other benefits.
The law states that it would “provide social security to everyone who is a worker according to the labor law, including retirement pay and compensation for deaths and injuries on the job.”
Cambodia’s employment sector—factory laborers, hotel and restaurant employees, NGO workers and so on—makes up just a fraction of the population, most of whom work as poor subsistence farmers.
But some lawmakers have expressed fears that without monitoring mechanisms the government could withhold workers’ money and benefits.
Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec parliamentarians also argued on Wednesday that the proposed law is too vague, saying they are not confident that the government will craft appropriate subdecrees for its implementation.
Chapter 3 of the draft law provides for workers to be compensated for accidents and deaths on the job. It stipulates that this includes deaths and injuries while traveling to and from work as well as those resulting from unsanitary food served by an employer.
Lawmakers—including opposition party leader Sam Rainsy—took this clause as an opportunity to air allegations that some factories distribute illegal amphetamine pills to their workers, telling them only that it’s “medicine” to improve their endurance.
Amphetamine, a stimulant also known as “yaba” or “speed,” can increase alertness and focus but is dangerous to human health. Yaba use has increased greatly in Cambodia in recent years.
Labor Minister Ith Sam Heng said he would ask his staff to investigate the charges.
The social security law states that employers would withhold a certain portion of workers’ salaries and turn it over to the government, which would deposit the money in a Social Security Fund.
But the law doesn’t say what percentage of their salaries workers would have to give up or how much their employers would be required to contribute, Funcinpec parliamentarian Keo Remy complained.
Keo Remy also decried the provisions for death and injury compensation, which do not specify where these reimbursements would come from.
“Employers should pay for medical care if the employee has an accident,” but the law leaves it open in a way that could force workers to pay for their employers’ unsafe workplaces, he said.
Drawing on his experience at the US computer-chip company Intel, he said forcing employers to pay for employee injuries makes for safer workplaces.
CPP lawmaker Ek Som Ol proposed that no more than $1 per month be deducted from workers’ salaries. “Workers here only get a small wage, so $1 is the most they could afford to contribute,” he said.
But he said such specifics do not need to be delineated in the law, saying, “every government in the world has decrees to outline the implementation of laws.”