More Vulnerable: The impact of the global economic meltdown on women in Cambodia | Migrant Worker | Cambodia

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This research report is one of five case studies commissioned by Oxfam GB on the impact of the global economic crisis on women in East Asian countries. In Cambodia, the economic downturn has severely affected the garment industry, in which women are vast majority of the work force, due to reduced demand for garments in the US and EU. Other affected sectors are tourism and construction. As well as its impact on employment and income, the global economic crisis has extended its effects to the welfare of individuals at the household level through reduced remittances from urban jobs, decreased income resulting from fewer economic activities, limited spending, and the drop in prices of some agricultural commodities such as rice, rubber, cassava and maize. The impact of the economic downturn has translated into job insecurity and deteriorating working conditions, leading to lower incomes or in some cases, legally unprotected employment. Women, particularly in women-headed households, have found it hard to deal with their family livelihood responsibilities and face limited job opportunities. Coping strategies can put their health, security and social position within communities at risk.Despite such negative impacts on women in Cambodia, the evidence of intervention through external assistance to the households at the community level fell between 2008 and 2009, and women-headed households were not taken into account sufficiently in the distribution of aid.
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    www.oxfam.org.uk  More Vulnerable The impact of the economic downturn on women in Cambodia Ngo Sothath and Chan Sophal February 2010 OXFAM RESEARCH REPORT    More Vulnerable , Oxfam GB Research Report, February 2010 2 Contents Acknowledgements ..............................................................................................3 Executive summary ...............................................................................................4 1 Introduction: background .................................................................................6 2 Overview of Cambodia’s economic performance ........................................7 3 Impacts of the economic downturn .................................................................9  3.1 Impacts on the employment situation ...............................................9 3.2 Impacts on income and working conditions ...................................11 3.3 Impacts on remittances .......................................................................14 3.4 Impacts on family welfare ..................................................................17 3.5 Impacts on the labour burden for women ........................................22 3.6 Impacts on micro-credit and businesses mostly undertaken by women .................................................................................................. 23 3.7 Impacts on public spending ..............................................................25 4 Responses from the government ......................................................................27 5 Conclusion ............................................................................................................30 6 Recommendations ...............................................................................................32 References ................................................................................................................34    List of tables Table 1: Projections of 2009 GDP Growth in Cambodia .......................................................7 Table 2: Profile of the 33 laid-off garment workers interviewed .......................................11 Table 3: Percentage of households whose members' jobs were affected or lost in the previous nine months .............................................................................................................13 Table 4: Proportion of male and female members whose jobs were affected or lost in the previous nine months ..............................................................................................................14 Table 5: Number of Cambodian migrant workers ‘officially’ sent since 1998 ..................15 Table 6: Percentage of households engaged in migration work .........................................17 Table 7: Destinations of and reasons for migration ..............................................................17 Table 8: Primary difficulties that households encountered in the previous six months...19 Table 9: Coping strategies that households have undertaken since April 2009 ................20 Table 10: Percentage of households choosing to eat less preferred/ less expensive food in the previous three months ........................................................................................................21 Table 11: Percentage of hhs receiving external assistance in the previous six months .....22 Table 12: Percentage of hhs having outstanding loans ..........................................................25 Table 13: Reason for taking out loans (percentage of loans) .................................................26 Table 14: National Budget in 2008 and 2009 (US$, million) ..................................................27  More Vulnerable , Oxfam GB Research Report, February 2010 3 Acknowledgments This report was executed and managed by independent consultants, Mr. Ngo Sothath and Mr. Chan Sophal. We acknowledge the previous support provided by Oxfam America, Oxfam GB in Cambodia, and the NGO Forum on Cambodia for the Cambodian Economic Association to conduct a survey of 1,070 households on which this report is essentially based. We hope that the report provides valuable assistance for understanding the ways in which the economic downturn has impacted on women in Cambodia and the responses from the government to the impact of the global economic downturn. This study was made possible by the funding from the Oxfam GB and Irish Aid. Phnom Penh, February 2010  More Vulnerable , Oxfam GB Research Report, February 2010 4 Executive summary From the fourth quarter of 2008, the global economic downturn began to affect Cambodia’s major economy bases (garments, tourism, and real estate and construction). This was the result of the country’s reliance on textile exports to the US and EU markets, international tourist arrivals, and foreign investment property markets. Economic growth in 2009 was at most 0.09%, likely around -2%. Exports and jobs in the export industries declined substantially. The economic downturn has had disproportionately strong negative impacts on women in Cambodia. Women dominate the workforce in garment factories; 63,000 workers (18% of the workforce) in the industry were laid off and others were underemployed due to the closure of 50 factories between September 2008 and May 2009. This has implications for wages and incomes, remittances, alternative jobs, and working conditions. The impact of the economic downturn on women is partly due to their job consolidation in the textile industry. Garment workers experienced declines in income/wage, less overtime, longer working hours and deteriorating working conditions. When new jobs were found, less-skilled workers were paid less and were only employed on a temporary basis, while skilled workers were offered long-term contracts with better pay, but with more restrictions placed on working conditions and freedom. For example, the contract limits the employee’s ability to complain if the employer decided to dismiss the employee or discontinue their contract. A small sample survey of garment workers found that those still in the workforce earned 18% less in real terms between May 2008 and May 2009, and their remittances to families in rural areas fell by 6%. The hardships resulting from unemployment forced women in particular to take undesirable jobs such as working in the entertainment industry (direct sex workers or disguised sex workers in massage parlours and karaoke clubs). A small sample survey by CDRI suggests that after being laid off, 30% of the sample were able to find paid work, 46% did unpaid family work, and 24% reported being jobless. The UNIAP’s survey confirmed that the majority (58%) of women working in the entertainment sector had entered these jobs during the previous eight months (since September 2008) and the share of entertainment workers previously employed as garment factory workers increased from 13% before the downturn to about 19% during and after the downturn. Further, before the downturn, 36% of entertainment workers borrowed money from their bosses or entertainment establishment owners and the proportion nearly doubled (66%) during and after the downturn. This implies that those who started working in the entertainment sector during and after the economic downturn faced difficulty in their livelihoods and had to incur loans from bosses or entertainment establishment owners. On top of its impact on employment and income, the economic downturn has extended its effects to the welfare of individuals at the household level through reduced remittances from urban jobs, decreased income resulting from fewer economic activities, limited spending, and the drop in prices of some agricultural commodities such as rice, rubber, cassava and maize. Women in female-headed households are more likely to have their jobs affected. The evidence from CEA’s household survey of 15 villages (Jul, 2009) shows that among other difficulties such as sickness and health expenses, 27% of the households reported that decreased income or job loss had been their primary difficulty in the past six months and 14.4% found repaying the debt was their major constraint. In terms of employment in those villages, 3.7% of the households had at least one member lose their job in the previous nine months, 32.9% reported that household members’ jobs had been affected. Overall, the proportion of men and women whose jobs were affected is almost equal,
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