A senior official at the Ministry of Industry and Handicraft called on the country’s garment manufacturers on Friday to increase productivity by upgrading the technology in their factories.
Speaking at the Textile and Garment Industry Exhibition on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich island, Secretary of State Sat Samy said he was optimistic that the country’s more than 1,300 garment factories would see a return on their investments in better machines.
“Factories have seen their technology become worse and worse,” Mr. Samy said. “So to improve their efficiency, effectiveness, productivity and quality, they need to replace old machines with new ones because the new machines would help them save time, reduce costs and increase revenue.”
Mr. Samy’s comments come in the midst of negotiations between factory owners, labor unions and the government over a raise to the monthly minimum wage in the country’s all-important garment sector.
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), which negotiates on behalf of factory owners, has argued that the low productivity of Cambodian workers means that a significant raise to the current minimum wage of $128 will scare off investors.
Patrick Ma, a sales director for equipment supplier Veit Hong Kong Limited, said at Friday’s event that more automation could alleviate the burden of higher wages.
“I was told by a garment factory that facing the increasing wages, most of them are trying to improve and increase efficiency of workers,” Mr. Ma said.
“The investments [in new equipment] will pay for themselves because they will be replacing the wages of the workers and they can get better quality,” he added. “When the wage is keeping on increasing, the room for automation is getting higher and higher.”
However, Ly Tek Heng, operations manager at GMAC, said that better technology would not replace workers, but simply make each employee more efficient, noting that many factories already had modern machinery.
“I think that investment in improvement of technology would not reduce the amount of labor in factories, because it would help the existing workers increase productivity and the company’s competitiveness, which makes buyers feel happier,” he said.