In 1998, the economically active population was estimated at six million, of which 52% were female, due in large part to the holocaust of the Khmer Rouge. The estimated unemployment rate in 1999 was 2.8%. In 2001, approximately 80% of the population was agricultural workers, primarily engaged in subsistence rice farming.
The labor law provides the right for workers to form unions, prohibits forced or compulsory labor, sets a minimum wage, and set the minimum legal working age at 15 (unless employment is within a family enterprise). However, enforcement remains inconsistent. Unions are concentrated in the garment and footwear industries where around 28% of workers are union members. Strikes are protected by law.
A 48-hour workweek and minimum safety and health standards are provided by law. However, these rules are not effectively enforced. Separate minimum wages are established for each sector of the economy and average wages are so low that second jobs and subsistence agriculture are usually necessary. The minimum wage in the garment industry is $45.00 per month. Many children are engaged in work activity, generally within the agricultural sector.