The outcry over Cambodian mothers selling breast milk was not left unnoticed until the practice was banned several days ago. It is still quite the heated debate. People are fighting for babies’ rights against those who argue that it provides a much valued supplementary income to the poor, among other things. We leave that question to them, as we are focusing today on what it can teach us: how employers play a role in helping mothers to avoid a situation where they feel pressured to sell breast milk for money.
Respect of the Law
That’s the most fundamental point. Labor in Cambodia is regulated by the Labor Law, from the 10th of January 1997. Its 103rd Article mentions than wages earned by Cambodians should continue during maternity leave. Its 182nd Article states clearly that employees cannot be fired during that time.
Unfortunately, that law is less respected than it should be. Many mothers find themselves without income to feed and dress their newborn. If you find yourself in a situation where you might lose something because of your pregnancy, these articles are here to protect you.
Anyhow, it’s true that selling breast milk can be tempting to do once the maternity leave is over. Still, keep in mind that there are health related issues for both the mothers and the babies that can get in the way of your work if you don’t pay close attention to them.
With an unemployment rate of 0.50% in 2015 (the dream of many Western economies), it could be likely that Cambodian wages will be raised to the point where poverty becomes much less of a problem. But this number can be misleading. Many people are self-employed, working in the fields without modern tools to make their labor easier.
Therefore before widespread poverty reduction becomes a reality, there will continue to be people willing to work for less than $200/month, the current average wage, that will feel tempted and consider selling breast milk as an extra source of income. It is only through education and training than the situation can be improved. By acquiring and leveraging valuable job skills, Cambodians can start earning higher livable wages.
Latest Developments over the Selling Breast Milk debate
Selling milk was banned on the 28th of March 2017, with the government stating that their citizens were exploited. But poor mothers don’t share that view. It is likely to continue in Cambodia and other countries. One thing everyone can agree on is that selling breast milk is most common among the poor. The only way out of this is through education, good jobs, and continuous training.
Thank you for reading. If you are interested to learn more about the Cambodian Labor Law and the rights you or your staff are entitled to, check out our certificate course on “Cambodian Employment Law”.