Dive into Massage Worker's Life During Pandemic

When I'm sick, I spend my own money. Sometimes I need to borrow money from others for hospital costs.
Yi, Massage Worker

Ms Phoeum Yi is a massage worker in Siem Reap. Her husband is a construction worker, and they have four children. She delivered her youngest daughter about a month ago. Yi said when she first started this job ten years ago at the night market, the situation of massage workers was terrible. Doing something against her boss's orders would mean being fired.

"We used to have a violent and abusive boss," Phoeum Yi said, "We were unable to take leave or negotiate work benefits because we would face violence and abusive words from our boss."

However, the situation has changed and eventually improved after massage workers joined the Cambodian Food Service Workers' Federation (CFSWF). "Now our boss's behaviour has changed because she is afraid of union filing complaints and consequently pay for a heavy fine. We are treated better."

"Being a member of the union is like having a shield, it prevents us from all the violence, abusive treatment, and harsh words," Yi added. "When we have problems, we reach out to the union, and they help us solve it."

Work conditions for massage workers have improved, yet the spread of Covid19 is a new unavoidable crisis for Yi.

Phoeum Yi is among millions of Cambodians who served the tourism sector—the most impacted and vulnerable sector during Covid19. Siem Reap province was dependent on tourism and international visitors. And what used to be a bustling city serving foreign and local tourists had become very quiet the past two years.

During Covid19, Phoeum Yi lost her job, which has completely changed her life. She now grows vegetables and sells them at the market. Yi earns way less than what she made as a massage worker at the night market, but it helps her and her family survive during this challenging time. She used to earn around $300 a month from the salary and tips her clients gave her.

"When I'm sick, I spend my own money. Sometimes I need to borrow money from others for hospital costs," said Phoeum Yi, "if no other choices, I would walk into the pharmacy and buy medicine to reduce the temperature at least. It would cost me about 2,000 rile ($0.5)."

Yi wishes to obtain NSSF cards to access free health care and treatment and get some financial support during this challenging time.