In addition the prepared text, Samdech Techo Hun Sen made some impromptu comments in relation to issues of lack of labors inside the country, passports for students and workers to foreign countries, and competition for labors.
… In this regard, in order to contribute to the conference, I would like to provide a number of recommendations to be used as basis for the discussion:
First, take measures in reducing risky migration of the people by explaining our domestic employment potentials, especially the working opportunity in agricultural sector through all means in order to disseminate and enhance public awareness on the advantages and disadvantages of migration, existing migration policy, rights and laws on employment in a more comprehensive manner through organizing seminars, training workshops directly to the local people.
Passports for Students and Migrant Workers
Regarding this point I would like to clarify as well as to take this opportunity to place an appeal for the start of taking measures with regard to the migration issue from our country. Just now HE Vorng Soat filed a report based on the 2010 research data of the National Institute for Statistics of the Ministry of Planning, in which 7,600,000 over 8,800,000 adult population are employed. 54.2% of them have been distributed to agriculture, 16.2% in industry and 29.6% in service sector.
If we were to review the figures put together by the National Election Committee, there are over 9,000,000 voters. Taking these figures into consideration, it seems that our country has plenty of labor. However, we need to deduct the number of old-age people from the list – considering their non-labor status. For example, senior people in their 80s are no longer working but, with the rights to vote, will be fed by the society.
We are in in a critical labor lacking situation. Every business or production base sounds out their need for labor. On the contrary, our laborers are taking risky and even illegal migration to look for jobs elsewhere. This has created not only lack of labor inside country, but risky and illegal migration has also brought so much difficulties for the countries they have travelled to.
Yesterday, I watched the news on CNC and I was startled by their report that illegal migration happened because of the fact that people do not have passports. And the reason for having no passport is because the price for issuing one is too expensive. I think they still have their newsbar running. How could that be a reason since we have been issuing passports for free for legal migration workers and students? I think CNC should make sure about the person to give interview. Today I reserve my right to deny that.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economy and Finance, HE Keat Chhon, reported to me that we have paid millions USD in issuing passports (for students and migrant workers). They may have to remove the news from the newsbar on TV as the news is not true. The total cost of issuing passports for these catagories of people is about 20 UDS for stamps. The Royal Government paid millions of USD on passports for migrant workers. So this news has to be rectified.
Labor is indeed lacking in Cambodia. Take for instance in area of agriculture. Considering the area of cultivation of 2,500,000 hectares of rainy seasson rice, how much labor do we need? How much more do we need taking into consideration the dry season rice and other crops? Rubber and cashew nuts are also one of the labor intensive sectors. We also have the need for labor in hotels, construction sites, garment factories, etc. In general, we are noting the re-emergence of the country’s growth in agriculture, industry, service and construction. Unfortunately, we are noticing the increase in risky and illegally emigration.
Wages, Residences, Work Conditions – Key for Competition
The issue here is that there is a need for fierce competition with regard to monthly wages. Garment factories in Phnom Penh already start competing for workers. I am urging garment, construction, agributure and service sectors to start with the increment of basic wages to attract and keep people in their industries. Since we have left the issue of wages for the factories to figure out and compete among themselves, I expect that we will see no more demonstrations or strikes demanding more pay. It will be fair that if any factories cannot compete, they will have to close down.
Also, the second area of importance is the residence and well-being of the workers. If they want workers, they will have to provide a better living environment. Take for instance in the Bokor Mountain Resort, the owner provide their workers with places to stay or they could not retain workers to work on their construction as the sites is on top of the hill and would require time and resource to go to and from every day. I think it is a solution that factories in other places should be considering or they would have to cover travelling and residential expenses for them.
In Phnom Penh, if the factories could not provide residences of their own, they would have to think of giving extra pay for them to cover their lodgings. The Royal Government would not in any way force workers to work for factories that pay them less or lower than other places. They should do the same as far as healthcare is concerned. It has been noticed that workers fainted here and there. I urge that the officials of the Ministry of Social Affairs to work actively to find out a solution to the problem with the owners of the factories. There are various causes to the problem, ranging from unsafe environment, overwork to insufficient rest. We are human beings not machines.
Aslo important in this point, we need to make sure that there is a better working condition that we have demanded since the beginning. We must ensure that we are abiding by the working conditions. In relation to trade favor with a number of countries, the Minister for Trade asked me if we are to go on with that. I told him it will continue as that is the essential rights of our workers. We do not apply that only in garment sector but in every work places. We will not allow workers’ rights to be abused.
However, I find it difficult to understand when in some places workers are demonstrating endlessly on very minor issue, even after there was intermediary solution by the arbitration council, and sometimes because of inacceptability from the part of the factories oweners. As in the case of a Casino, I could not recall the name, where the trade union demaded that the Casino owner accept their representative to get back to work. I think this matter could be resolved by forgiveness. We must seek inclusive reconciliation whereby the two actors – workers and factories owners – are involved.
Plenty of Works Back Home
I am therefore appealing to our people to refrain from migrating to find work in other countries but to stay and work inside the country instead. Some of the works of course are of seasonal nature. They may come to Phnom Penh to find jobs after they finish transplanting and/or harvesting their rice. During my visit the other day with Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng and other Cambodian leaders to the construction site of the crematorium for the late King Father, answering to my questions, some of them said they came from Takeo affirming that they already finish transplanting rice and this was their subsidiary work.
So, some of our people, while finishing their transplanting and waiting for harvest, they come to city to find jobs in between. Even workers of this type are difficult to find these days. Take for instance, today thare are fifty workers in this place, but there could be only twenty left tomorrow because they may decide to move to another place as there are numerous construction works to do.
I urge that our workers return to the country as there are plenty of works to do. Along with that we also have to make further efforts to get the news reaching to them. I notice now that the advertisement for labor has started. It is now different from before when everyday we hear the advertisement of work in Malaysia and nothing or little about local work. It was true that we may not have enough work inside the country but now we do and the price for the job differs slightly. However, local work would keep them from being illegal workers.
According to the report, migrant workers send in their incomes annually of about 200,000,000 USD to the country. Take the case of the Philippines, one of the countries that send laborers, and there are some 6,000 of them in Cambodia working as musicians and singers. Thailand sends many of their laborers to Taiwan and the Middle East. They send their high-skill workers abroad and they import low-skill workers from countries like Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.
After all, I must confirm that wages, residences, health allowances, working conditions are the basic factors for factory owners to keep in mind and to compete. Anyone who cannot compete is their problem. The Royal Government cannot do anything to protect it. We are in free market economy. They should not anticipate protection from the Royal Government. According to HE CHam Prasith, some factories have now recruited workers by themselves and their wage policy will be set accordingly. There is no set base salary or wage. Let them compete. It is also up to the factories to sign a long term contract or not with them. Long-term contract is good as workers would be able to learn more skills.
You may learn that there is a strong competition for chef. Chef also moves from one to another restaurant for better pay and place. In order to prevent drainage, the most important thing is to guarantee their needs. People with land size from five to fifty or over hundreds of hectares, there is a clear need for workers. Students in agriculture would then be able to find works in the private sectors. Some people do not want to work in the government because they would have less income than working for private sector. In some countries, there is also this case of draining from sate to private sector./.
CNV Team – 12 December 2012