Garment Exports Booming Despite Concerns

Despite criticisms over safety, outbreaks of sometimes violent industrial action and a raise in the minimum wage that it was warned would scare off manufacturers, Cambodia’s garment sector is booming, according to government figures. A report on state newswire Agence Kampuchea Presse (AKP) on Friday said exports of garments and textiles, which make up the bulk of Cambodia’s output in the global economy, were up by almost a third in terms of value in the first six months of this year. AKP cited Ministry of Commerce statistics, which said that in the first half of the year, garment and textile exports were worth $1.558 billion, up 32 percent on the same period last year. … Figures from the Arbitration Council released Monday show that labor disputes brought to the tribunal during the same period were steady—111 cases compared with 114 cases in the first half of 2012. The number of strikes recorded by the Arbitra­tion Council in the first half of 2013 was 30, compared with 26 in the first half of 2012. David Welsh, country director of the U.S.-based Solidarity Center, said that the $14-a-month wage rise was not having the negative effect that had been warned by opponents during negations. “The government and [the Garment Manufactures Association in Cambodia] argued that if wages increase manufacturers will flee, but they are pouring in at the moment,” Mr. Welsh said, adding that the raise itself was still well short of a living wage for garment workers. “The industry is booming,” he said. “But workers need to get a fair share of that pie.