Silk factory Cambodia.jpg
Silk factory in Cambodia

Cambodia’s Ministry of Labour raised the minimum wage from 140 dollars to 153 dollars per month in its vital garment sector to little fanfare on Thursday afternoon.

"The minimum wage of garment factory workers for 2017 has been officially determined by 153 dollars a month," the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training said in a statement in Khmer. 

The change will go into effect on January 1, and impact over 700,000 Cambodians employed in the garment sector, the majority of whom are women, according to Better Factories Cambodia, a programme of the International Labour Organization.

Cambodian factories produce clothing for international brands like Adidas, Puma, Armani, H&M, and Gap. 

The 5-billion-dollar industry is Cambodia’s largest and responsible for 80 per cent of its exports. It is also the only industry in the country to have a government-mandated minimum wage. That rate is decided during annual discussions between labour unions, manufacturers, and the government. 

The annual wage debates often prompt large-scale protests and violence. In January 2014, five people were killed when police opened fire on a crowd of hundreds of protesting garment workers, who were dissatisfied with the latest wage increase. Police used water cannons in December 2015 to disperse a crowd of 20,000 to 30,000 protesting garment workers at a special economic zone in eastern Cambodia.

This year, however, the discussions have been largely overshadowed by escalating tensions between Cambodia's two main political parties and the Pchum Ben ghost festival, considered one of Cambodia's most important holidays.

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