The Cambodian government today gave the go-ahead to controversial measures to cut nightshift wages for garment factory workers that were first reported on just-style early last month.

The move is intended to create as many as 200,000 new jobs by encouraging companies to hire more people to work in the factories during the evening, and is also aimed at improving Cambodia's international competitiveness.

But opponents say cutting nightshift wages by up to 70% will eat into factory workers' already meagre pay and that there are better ways to boost business in Cambodia, such as "eliminating corruption, bureaucracy, and improving security and infrastructure."

In Cambodia the daily rate averages around US$50 a month, and under current labour laws, nightshift workers are paid twice the rate as those who work on the day shift. The new nightshift rate would be around US$65 a month.

The head of Cambodia's largest labour organisation, the Free Trade Union, had threatened a national strike if the salary cut was approved.

Cambodia currently has 300 garment factories which last year exported garments worth about US$2bn, nearly three-quarters of which were shipped to the US.