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What is a benefit? The English dictionary defines it as â€œSomething that promotes or enhances well-being.â€
The demonstrations over the last 12 months have been over money and labour; the lack of money that the labourers strive to take home.
If we make comparisons, a factory worker in Singapore working from Monday to Friday for 8 Â½ hours a day can make $1,480 a month.
Thatâ€™s $8.70 an hour for picking and packing. In Vietnam, for the same work, the monthly salary is 10% of that (letâ€™s be generous and round it off to $160), which means that the average worker is making 0.94cents an hour.
Thereâ€™s a huge difference in Communist and Democratic countries.
But, who are the â€œWestâ€ to complain that human rights are being violated? Letâ€™s say that the factories in Singapore and Vietnam are running lines of shirts. Each staff has a duty to make at least 10 shirts. The workers in Singapore can make more than their quota, but the workers in Vietnam fall just short. Isnâ€™t it fair to say that both sets of workers deserve the salaries they are on? Yes because of the price of living is different in both countries, but also no because of lack of training. Training each member of staff to be proactive and efficient, and meeting targets and deadlines will only get the best out of the work force. Getting the staff in the right frame of mind, with the right attitude (all of this coming from the right management-style) will cost that company time and money, which is exactly what is happening here in Cambodia.
What is the missing link? A debate on recent events allowed me to clear my thoughts and express the changes that have happened. The gap of wealth between the rich and the poor has increased the same way as it has in China. That said, whilst the affluence of the so-called rich has developed in an obscene manner, the poor have also seen their share of improvements over the last 20 or so years. In the early 90s, the infrastructure of the country was basic (at best!); the markets were as diminutive as the opportunities for an alternative source of income, the extortionate costs of import, and the absence of basic services, clean running water, electricity, telecoms.
There is now a difference in the lifestyles of the majority of the population within the city, not to mention the opportunities. 24 years ago, factory workers were more than thrilled to be working for $35/$40 a month plus over time, as it gave them work off the farm (where the work was only for food for the family). 24 years on and workers are making (being generous) 3 times that amount, $120 a month with overtime.
One Union, the Asia Floor Wage Alliance â€“ a union-based group campaigning for fair pay across the region- surmise that an average salary of $281 a month would represent a living wage for the average Khmer factory worker. Thatâ€™s an annual rise of $80,500,000, a figure worth choking on.
Since I started â€˜Livingâ€™ in Cambodia, Iâ€™ve had the privilege to learn and understand a different culture and humility, but I also now understand that working in Cambodia, expect Cambodian earnings.
Written by Criztian Velayo
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