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The Garment Industry in Cambodia: Its Role in Poverty Reduction through Export-Oriented Development

Discussion Papers


June 2006


Cambodia’s export-oriented garment industry has contributed greatly to poverty reduction in the country through employment of the poor. This paper provides a statistical verification of this contribution based on firm-level data from 164 sampled companies collected in 2003. Its main conclusions confirm the substantial impact that employment in the garment industry has had on poverty reduction in Cambodia. Firstly, entry-level workers receive wages far above the poverty line. Secondly, females make up the predominant share of the main category jobs in the industry. Thirdly, barriers to employment and to promotions up to certain job categories are not high in terms of education and experience. Another important finding is that a typical sample firm exhibited high profitability, although there was wide variation in profitability among firms. This average of high profitability could be a good predictor of Cambodia’s viability in the intensified competition since the phase out of the Multi-Fiber Arrangement (MFA) at the beginning of 2005. A point of note is that Cambodia’s pattern of industrial development led by a labor-intensive industry is similar to that of neighboring countries in East Asia which earlier went through the initial stage of industrial development, except that Cambodia has lacked a strong government industrial promotion policy which characterized the earlier group.

Keywords: Cambodia; export-oriented industrialization; garments; poverty reduction
JEL classification: J30, J31, L67, O53

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Please note that discussion papers are works in various stages of progress and most have not been edited and proofread and may contain errors of fact or judgment. Revised versions of these papers may subsequently appear in more formal publication series. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). The IDE does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included and accepts no responsibility for any consequences arising from its use.