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Wage hike an emerging vote bank tool for Southeast Asian leaders

To increase vote bank, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has adopted an interesting strategy. He visits to garment and footwear factories that employ some 700,000 citizens nationwide. Sometimes he has lunch with the workers. Apart from Hun Sen, there are other Southeast Asian leaders who are following suit. In Cambodia, garment workers and their families constitute a major voting bloc among the population of 16 million. In December while addressing 14,000 workers from 15 factories and enterprises in Phnom Penh, he said that workers will receive a basic monthly salary increase from $153 to $170 in some days. Apart from this, they would also be getting other welfare measures, such as free health checks and treatments in state hospitals. This led to an 11 per cent minimum wage hike effective from January 1, 2018. Employers and workers had previously agreed to raise the wage to $165 a month, but Hun Sen added on an extra $5. All this has been done in order to secure the Premiership position for the next two terms. Owing to this, Cambodian workers now earn a minimum monthly wage of $170.

This measure had earlier helped the Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP, gain seats in the 2013 general election and the June 2017 communal elections. Malaysia, too, is headed for a general election before August, and there are talks of a minimum wage increase as well. The government will conduct a biannual review of the monthly wages, currently 1,000 ringgit ($253) for peninsular states and 920 ringgit for island states, in the middle of the year.