Theourn Sophea, a 25-year-old construction worker whose hometown is in Kandal province, has been working in this booming sector since she was 20 years old. Formerly a garment worker, Sophea quit the factory job and followed her husband to work at the construction site so that she could have time to look after her kids. Besides, she often fainted while working in the factory.
When asked to compare the difficulty between the garment job and construction work, she said, “Both are the same. But the garment job is stricter – sometimes workers are forced to work overtime, while there is more freedom in construction work; however, the pay is very little.” Getting 17,000 Khmer Riel per day, Sophea’s job is to mix limestone, carry tiles and the mixed limestone. She sometimes assists three skilled construction workers at a time. Sophea tries to be cautious and careful, as much as she can, yet sometimes she has dropped tiles she was carrying on her own feet. Despite having five years experience in this sector, she still cannot overcome her acrophobia. “I am really scared of heights. I always say no when a skilled construction worker I assist tells me to apply the limestone while standing on the scaffolding.”
Sophea earns less than her peers because she usually asks for days off as her kids often get sick and nor is she in good health. For daily expenses, she normally spends just 4,000 riels but this can sometimes rise to 8,000 riels.
“If I don’t try to eat less, I will not have enough money for saving.”
Talking in a dry and tired tone, Sophea said she doesn’t want to work in the construction sector, however, she must do it to help earn money for her family. “I pity my husband who is the only breadwinner in the family. My health is not good, so I cannot help him much.”
So far she and her husband have saved some money and she has inherited land in her hometown. She wants to build a home on the land and someday move back there. But before going back, she wants to continue working for another year until she has enough money to open a vegetable stall in a local market.