Labour Minister Ith Samheng yesterday said Japan has agreed to allow Cambodians to be employed as full-time workers instead of as interns, as is the practice now.

He made the announcement following a meeting with Japanese ambassador Horinouchi Hidehisa at the ministry yesterday.

Mr Samheng said during the meeting, Mr Hidehisa informed him of the Japanese government’s decision and invited him to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding on the arrangement.

He said he will be going to Japan to sign it in the middle of next month and the arrangement will come into force in April.

“It is a new chance for Cambodian workers,” Mr Samheng said. “We hope that Japan will take in more Cambodians to work there because of the good cooperation between both countries.”

He said that presently, Japan takes in Cambodians interns and they only earn an allowance, and not full wages.

“When our workers get full-time jobs, they will get higher wages and better benefits than as interns,” Mr Samheng said, adding that they will also pick up more skills in the workplace.

He noted that currently there are 9,100 Cambodia workers working in Japan, earning an average of $1,500 per month.

In October last year, the Labour Ministry signed an MoU with the Japan and Cambodia Interactive Association to train more Cambodians to work in Japan. Cambodia has sent such trainees to work in Japan since 2017.

There are 90 private recruitment companies and two organisations that are licensed to choose, train, send and manage Cambodians working in Japan.

Skills being taught include agriculture, fishing, construction, food processing, garment manufacturing and caring for the elderly.

De The Hoya, a programme officer with labour rights group Central said the new MoU with Japan is good for Cambodian workers, but expressed concern that feedback was not sought from NGOs.

“Even though Japan is a developed and democratic country, we still have concerns over working conditions especially if the sending country does not set any terms of employment,” he said. “We are worried about rights abuse such as long working hours and other problems.”