Behind the Fashion

The fashion world decks itself in glitz and glamour, but remains silent on the innumerable stories of the people who work in the textile industry or related sectors. Here, six Cambodians tell their stories of difficult work conditions, struggles, and resistance.

Sineat Yon

Portrait of Sineat Yon:“In my experience, work in the shoe factory is very hard.”

Sineat Yon is a translator and journalist. She used to work in a shoe factory in Cambodia.

Sineat Yon is well-acquainted with the dire state of Cambodia’s fashion industry: hundreds of people work together in cramped spaces at temperatures that exceed 30 degrees Celsius. There is no air conditioning. Safety measures, which ought to protect workers from poisonous chemicals, for instance, are not in place. When Sineat Yon worked in the factories, the minimum wage was still US$95 a month, but she was unable to earn more than $100 a month. That was not enough to live on, so she quit.

“I think that there are still several things that have to be improved.”

Minimum wage in Cambodia:

The minimum wage in the Cambodian garment and shoe industries has been raised successively since 2014. If in 2014 workers received at least US$95 a month, by 2019 the same figure had risen to $182. But that is still not a living wage, meaning sufficient to satisfy the basic needs of workers and their families. The increases to the minimum wage also come with increased pressure to perform. Thus there are reports of factory owners setting higher and higher targets while deploying fewer workers per order. In cases where production targets are not met, workers have been threatened with harsh disciplinary measures, including in the form of physical and psychological violence.


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