Falling productivity and rising infrastructure costs within Cambodia's garment sector may be putting it at a disadvantage compared with Vietnam, Bangladesh and Myanmar, the country's apparel industry association has said. 

According to data from the International Labour Organization (ILO), labour productivity in Cambodia's garment and footwear sector fell by 14% between 2011 and 2014 – and this decline has continued into 2016, according to the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC). 

"Faced with increased international competition and the competition from countries with very low wages, it is absolutely vital that the Cambodian garment sector gets out of sub-contracting logic, develops [an] added value policy for its products and services and acquires a certain independence vis-à-vis foreign supplies for its textiles," said Van Sou Ieng, chairman of GMAC.

The findings of a study on the need for skills and training for the Cambodian garment sector were presented at a workshop last month organised by GMAC and the France-led Europe-Vietnam Alliance (EVAlliance).

The study recommended a strategy to strengthen the overall competitiveness of the sector (productivity, quality, responsiveness, deadlines, punctuality) and an enhanced offer (creativity, product differentiation, co-contracting, co-development, prototyping, small runs) through professional training.

The study also proposed the development of new skills in textiles (spinning, weaving, and printing) to create an integrated textile and clothing sector, as well as in the areas of marketing and management. 

The expected result would be better sector profitability, a strong acceleration of exports and the creation of new, highly skilled jobs, GMAC said. 

EVAlliance has proposed the creation of a Fashion Institute of Cambodia, including a 'technological space' that would introduce concepts like PLM, logistics, financial management and fashion marketing. It would also monitor economic conditions, serve as an advisor and incubator for new companies, and implement an initial training cycle starting 2018 for Cambodian graduates.

"This promising strategy for the future will make possible the training of a highly qualified generation of Cambodian executive staff and managers who will make textile and garments a key sector for the socio-economic balance of Cambodia and a thriving, cost-effective, highly exporting industry, and an industry which employs highly skilled jobs," said JeanFrancois Limantour, chairman of EVAlliance.

Construction has begun on a new Cambodia Garment Training Institute, which is due to be completed by October this year. It will aim to train all levels of workers, so that the Cambodian garment sector's current pool of some 8,000 skilled expatriate-held positions can be replaced by a competent local workforce, according to GMAC projections.

Despite a fall in Cambodia's garment sector productivity, the industry continues to lead the country's real growth, recent figures showed, making it one of the fastest growing countries in East Asia. 

Garment industry leading Cambodia's growth