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The Impact of COVID-19 on Cambodian Economy and the ILO’s Response

Charles Bodwell
International Labor Organization (ILO), Bangkok, Thailand

International Research Symposium
2021, pp. 15 – 20




The rapid spread of COVID-19 has caused various problems and changes in our society. People are required to wear face masks when they go out and keep social distancing. There are temperature check points everywhere, and many countries are still restricting the immigration of foreigners to prevent entry of infected visitors. While those preventative measures are necessary, they are negatively affecting the Cambodian economy in various dimensions.

The Cambodian economy heavily relies on tourism, garment, manufacturing and construction, which embed around 40 percent of paid employment and comprise 70 percent of the country’s GDP (World Bank, 2020). The tourism sector is one of the most severely affected industries as overseas tourists have stopped due to the border closure. Many restaurants and hotels have had to shut down, and surviving businesses are struggling to pay maintenance costs. However, the travel industry is now in gradual recovery. The Ministry of Tourism (MoT), Government of Cambodia reported that 1.44 million domestic tourists and 14,148 foreign tourists had travelled during the Khmer New Year Holiday (The Cambodia Daily, 2020), and the country is discussing the possibility to accept foreign tourists from the “travel bubble” with other ASEAN countries (The World Tourism Organization [UNWTO], 2020).

The garment and manufacturing industries are other industries affected by COVID-19. The ILO states that 324 factories have had to suspend operations from 14 February to 9 June, which has affected 193,924 factory workers in Cambodia (International Labour Organization [ILO], 2020). The garment industry was originally expected to experience some downturn in 2020 due to the EU’s new sanction under “Everything but Arms (EBA)”, preferential duty free treatment. The COVID-19 crisis accelerated this downturn by disrupting global supply-chains and increasing factories’ costs to secure occupational safety and healthcare for employees.

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Cite this article in APA 7

Bodwell, C. (2021). The impact of COVID-19 on Cambodian economy and the ILO’s response. In Dash, T., R. & Charman, K., P. (Eds.), COVID-19: The economy and society. International Research Symposium (pp. 15 – 20). ALLIED PUBLISHERS PVT. LTD.

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