Textile manufacturing is the biggest industry in Cambodia, employing tens of thousands of workers, predominantly women, in the many factories lining National Road 4 leaving the center of Phnom Penh.
Driving home yesterday from a visit to my wife’s relatives in Kompong Speu at 4:30 pm, I witnessed the crush of traffic as truck after truck crammed with garment workers made their way to work the evening shift.
The minimum wage for these workers is $100 a month for 160 hours (about 62 cents an hour), up from $80, following demonstrations by the garment workers unions last year. The factories are long, metal, windowless structures without air conditioning or adequate ventilation. In addition to the health risks on the job, the workers are in danger during their daily commute as they speed down the national road crammed into open air trucks.