Cambodian garment workers worry about future prospects

PHNOM PENH, July 13, 2008 (AFP) – Sath Vanny sits anxiously at the door to her tiny one-room hut in the factory district of Cambodia’s capital. She left her hometown in the southern province of Takeo seven years ago to work at a women’s shirt factory, sending most of her earnings back to help the family farm.

But a slowdown in orders has the 25-year-old worried about her job.

Overtime work has fallen off as Cambodia’s textile sector, the country’s biggest industrial employer, struggles against stiffer global competition and slowing demand.

More than 10 Chinese-owned factories have moved to cheaper markets, leaving hundreds of thousands of garment workers — mostly young women like Vanny who support their impoverished families — facing destitution.

“I was told that we didn’t have as many orders as we used to, but with the basic wage I don’t have money to send to my parents,” says Vanny, who now earns less than 60 dollars per month.

“I can’t imagine living without a factory job. I am so worried about my family,” she adds, wiping away tears.

The garment industry earns 80 percent of Cambodia’s foreign exchange earnin