Laudes Foundation logo

Laudes Foundation logo
Laudes Foundation logo

Oxfam and Laudes Foundation

In a transformative partnership with the Laudes Foundation, Oxfam, together with local partners, is aiming to promote and protect the rights of apparel industry workers and their families in Cambodia by ensuring their access to social protection.

Social protection in Cambodia’s garment industry

The support of the Laudes Foundation to Oxfam’s work on social protection in Cambodia is a three-year project started in 2022. INSPIRE will deliver impactful and sustainable results to support the resilience of workers in the apparel industry and their families by improving access to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), benefitting 23,000 individuals directly and 735,000 indirectly. By catalysing collective action among workers, civil society, businesses, the Royal Government of Cambodia and other relevant stakeholders, INSPIRE will ensure that NSSF policy making is inclusive of workers’ perspectives and demands.

The partnership aims to improve access to social protection such as health insurance (sickness, injury) and maternity benefits, and to fill in large gaps in the implementation of the national social security scheme, including the under-registration of workers or lapsed contribution by employers, or lack of access for workers in subcontracted factories and those on fixed-term contracts. It will also aim to influence the government to extend social protection to additional situations such as lack of coverage for chronic conditions, periods of unemployment, and healthcare for dependents.

Reducing vulnerability and tackling inequality

Social protection is a key mechanism for creating an inclusive economy that enables workers and households to manage economic risks by reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience. However, workers face many difficulties in accessing the benefits they are entitled to under NSSF and the apparel industry in Cambodia is currently experiencing a crisis on multiple fronts – the COVID-19 pandemic has led to permanent or temporary closure of 400 factories, putting over 150,000 workers out of work. Under the circumstances, it is crucial that shortcomings in existing social protection coverage and access are addressed, to continue to tackle inequality in Cambodia.

The impact so far

In the first year of implementation, the project has enabled over 7,600 female garment workers to access the social protection scheme in Cambodia. Over 4,700 workers have become union members, two new trade unions were formed (representing a total of 1,650 workers), 645 trade unions leaders were trained on social security, and 1,900 workers had their work contract converted from fixed term to permanent. Social protection was a prominent feature on national media and on the agenda of the Government of Cambodia, including ASEAN member states, and advocacy campaigns were launched towards brands and factories to ensure payment of social benefits and wages.

Through our partnership with Oxfam on the INSPIRE initiative, we aim to enable workers and civil society in voicing their demands for an inclusive compensation system. To garner effective support and ensure it is serving the millions of workers, Oxfam and their implementation partners follow a locally-led and impact-focused approach to ensure worker voices are well represented and amplified.”

Naureen Chowdhury, Head of Labour Rights Programme, Laudes Foundation.

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