Like Vietnam, a couple of years ago only, Cambodia is today developing at full throttle. Walking around Phnom Penh is enough to observe that the real estate and construction sectors are booming. But did you know that 1/3 of the workers were females?
Phnom Penh is a city with a changing face. What used to be humble houses are now skyscrapers. In constant development, Cambodia’s capital is trying to catch up with his neighboring countries. Today, the construction industry employs a considerable number of migrant workers and many women in search of a job.
Despite facing some unfair conditions such as getting less paid than men, Cambodian women construction workers are more adaptable and more flexible.
Agriculture is leaving them no future, and most of these women have no choice but to come to the capital to find a job and earn money. In this quest for survival, a lot of them are forced to leave their family behind. In a male environment, many females have to put up with harassment from their male co-workers and being in minority, they can’t stand up for themselves and are forced to endure sexist attitude.
However, some of them found positivity in this situation as Heang Sian, a female construction worker, who got herself in debt after a divorce and a hospitalization.
“Selling my house and my land wasn’t sufficient to repay it, so I came to the city to make money,” she said. “Here, I get paid per week! Which is not the case when you work in a factory or a hotel” Heang Sian adds, with a smile.
Nevertheless, it is hard to forget that male and females face daily risks in their job. With no official security rules, death is a common occurrence in the industry. Life there merely has value despite an alarming mortality rate.
CARE, a global anti-poverty NGO focusing on women’s issues, released a report entitled “Labors Right For Female Construction Workers,” where details on women’s conditions in the field are exposed. As mentioned above, the men who pressure them to execute certain tasks such as cleaning and carrying construction materials for them, regularly mistreat them.
Unfortunately, Cambodia being a strongly patriarchal society gives little chance to women to raise their voice. Which is the reason why CARE sees a need for an increased focus on the labor rights of the ladies employed within the sector. Although men and women face the same risks concerning the security issues in construction, women also have to take sexist social values against them, which undervalue their contribution and lead to an inferior pay while they are still expected to endorse family responsibilities.