Slight signs of Improvement For Garment Workforce

Following job losses by double-digit percentages in the wake of the global economic crisis, trends hurting the Cambodian garment industry workforce have reversed course, showing slight growth, according to a report from the International Labor Organization released yesterday.

The report only shows employment growth of 0.2 percent from November 2009 to April 2010, but this contrasts with a 6.6 percent decrease in the previous six months and 12.5 percent decrease from May 2008 to April 2009.

“This is the first report where we have seen positive news in terms of employment in a while,” said Anne Ziebarth, a legal specialist with the ILO. She said the growth appears to have continued and is expected to remain steady.

“It’s moving in the right direction,” she said.

Overall the industry workforce has declined 17.7 percent from April 2008 to 297,000 employees in April 2010, according to the report. Factories have declined from 303 in April 2008 to 267 in April 2010.

Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, said he also expected the workforce to continue growing as the world economy continues to show signs of recovery.

“This year, 2010 is definitely going to be a better year,” he said.

There have been other signs of improvements. Cambodian garment exports rose 12.12 percent in the first quarter of 2010 compared to same period in 2009.

Still, Mr Loo said that while orders for garments have increased in the last six months, compared to the same period in 2009, prices have decreased 10 percent hurting factory profitability.

And though Mr Loo said 2010 export levels would not eclipse the period before the crisis, he added that it was probable that growth next year could reach pre-crisis levels.

The report, compared to previous reports, also showed few changes in factory compliance with worker rights such as paying the minimum wage and providing 18 days of paid leave being respected in nearly 100 percent of all monitored garment factories.


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