Protecting Maternity in Cambodia’s Textile Factories

Many women in Cambodia risk losing their jobs when they become pregnant. But most textile factories monitored by the ILO’s Better Factories Cambodia programme now offer maternity protection to their employees. For Ros Kimsreng, she now has the opportunity of keeping a good job and providing for her family’s future.

Date issued: 14 July 2008 | Size/duration: 00:03:33 (10.4 MB)
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Ros Kimsreng supports her family working in Cambodia’s textile industry. It’s a good job: she earns three times what the average Cambodian brings home each month. But when she knew she was going to have a baby, Ros started to worry: for many women in Cambodia, there’s a hard reality: when they get pregnant, they can lose their job.

Ros Kimsreng, Textile Factory Worker

When I got pregnant, I was very worried about my health and my job.

Ros works in the finishing department at a textile factory in Phnom Penh. For families who depend on working women like her, losing a good paying job is a catastrophe. But on Cambodia’s factory floors, times are changing for working women and mothers.

This isn’t just any day care centre: it’s actually part of PCCS Garments, where Ros works. Starting when the baby is 18 months old, new mothers can leave their babies in the hands of the company’s day care centre, while they work and earn money for their families.

Ros Kimsreng, Textile Factor Worker

The factory’s day care centre will take care of him while I work, up until he is three years old.

Companies like PCCS Garments recognize the value of keeping their all-woman workforce productive, and that includes not only keeping women on the job, but offering special benefits during late pregnancy and the first stages of motherhood. The company has a policy of paid maternity leave, which guarantees women workers 50 percent of their pay for 90 days after giving birth. During pregnancy, the company also has special arrangements in place. Chong Chin Siong is the Assistant General Manager.

Chong Chin Siong, PCCS Garments, Ltd

Actually, in the seven months of pregnancy we arrange some light work for the workers, so like a sewing worker, we arrange them to do some trimming work and then for ironing worker, we arrange for them to do some light packing work, so we try to avoid, arrange pregnant worker to do the work which has got vibration or long standing hours. This applies to them also after they come back from maternity leave.

After working women return to PCCS from maternity leave, the company gives them one hour a day, paid, to breast feed their baby. And most importantly during this special time, the company assigns the women to less strenuous jobs.

PCCS Garments isn’t unique: since 2001 more than four out of five textile factories monitored by the International Labour Organization’s Better Factories Cambodia program now have some form of paid maternity leave; three out of four, like PCCS Garments, are in full compliance, meaning they pay their workers half wages during maternity leave, and offer benefits like breast feeding breaks and day care. The hope is that this new atmosphere in the textile industry will inspire other Cambodian businesses to do the same, raising labour standards for everyone.

Tuomo Poutiainen, ILO Better Factories Cambodia

We hope to see an increasing attention being paid to motherhood and maternity protection so that the combination of having decent work and a good family and life balance can be assured.

For young women like Ros their worries about having babies and keeping their jobs, end when they take advantage of their company’s maternity protection policy.

What was a time of uncertainty for Ros and her family has turned out to be one of joy: a new life to nurture, and the opportunity of keeping a good job to provide for her family’s future.