Cambodian Workers Owe $10 Billion in Microfinance Debt as COVID-19 Wipes out Incomes

Source: ASEAN Today

From health care systems to income and poverty, the COVID-19 crisis is highlighting deep inequalities across Southeast Asia. In Cambodia, the economic slowdown has derailed the garment industry, which employs over 800,000 workers in a country of 16 million. Due to declining demand, over half of the country’s garment factories will likely close by the end of April.

With many Cambodians out of work, COVID-19 is also throwing another problem into sharp relief: that of precariously high microfinance debt. Cambodia has the highest microloan debt per borrower in the world at around US$3,800, almost twice the country’s GDP per capita. Over 2.6 million Cambodians currently hold microfinance loans, collectively worth a total of over $10 billion, according to the Cambodia Microfinance Association. These numbers don’t include widespread informal lending.

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