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Garment sector competes & thrives

06
Aug '07
Wearing a dark-blue uniform, with red trim, and standing next to a huge ironing machine in a garment factory in Phnom Penh, 20-years-old, Son Sean, smiles and responds: “My family has better living conditions now,” she pauses and continues while pushing a collar into the machine, “From my earnings, my mother has been able to build a 5 by 7 meter brick house with a tiled roof, and my 15 year-old sister has been able to continue her schooling.”

Son Sean is one of many garment workers who come from the poor Cambodian province of Svay Rieng, located about 120 km east of Phnom Penh. She earns on average about US$70 per month, depending on how much overtime she gets, and each month, Sean sends US$50 to US$90 cash home to support her 50-year old widowed mother and her younger sister, who studies in the fifth grade.

Sean's co-worker, Vong Pak, 39, smiles proudly when asked whether she supports members of her family with her earnings. “From my salary I support my 68-year-old mother, my four children and I pay for my children's schooling,” she says while sewing a shirt. Pak is the breadwinner of the family. Three of her four children, who are 14, 12, 7, and 3 years old, are in school now.

Both Sean and Pak work at the New Island Clothing garment factory (NIC), along with more than 800 other workers. NIC is one of 290 garment factories in Cambodia which exports goods to the United States and Europe. NIC operates in six countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Lithuania and Mauritius.


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