The Garment Industry
From its small-scale start to its swift rise to prominence in the late 1990s, Cambodia’s garment sector has remained a linchpin of the nation’s economy. Over the years, the industry has faced intense internal and external pressures, including the global economic crisis, increased competition, and a trend of young Cambodians choosing to work abroad over factory jobs.
Yet the sector continues to thrive and drive the nation’s economy. Today, the industry employs over 700,000 workers and accounts for $5 billion, or roughly 80 percent, of Cambodia’s total export revenue.
Decent working conditions have played an integral role in the sector. Factories have made key improvements in the past decade that have helped cement Cambodia’s reputation as a place where garments are made in non-exploitative conditions. However, major challenges remain and demand industry-wide efforts toward examining conditions and addressing root causes.
In addition, growing competition for a share of the garment export market across the globe means Cambodia’s factories must deepen their commitment to creating decent working conditions that give Cambodia its competitive edge in garment exports. As the garment sector expands into a new stage of growth, Cambodia’s reputation as a country that focuses on working conditions across the sector will be critical in helping the industry navigate new challenges and further leverage economic development.