COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on countries across the world and is especially tough in low income countries that don’t have strong social safety nets for those losing their jobs and livelihoods. Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA is working with the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) on a project aiming to advance women’s rights. 

Protecting the rights of informal economy workers in Cambodia

The Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) was established in 2005 when gropus of tuk-tuk drivers, taxi drivers, moto-taxi drivers, street vendors, and small restaurant workers came together to unite as one. The association  hoped to promote and protect the rights of informal economy workers to improve their livelihooods and wellbeing.

Since its establishment, the association has organised informal economy workers in six provinces in Cambodia, and provides training for members, raises awareness among communities and advocates to government about the important role of informal economy workers in Cambodia and their rights.  

With about 11,000 current members, IDEA has recently partnered with Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA in three-year project aiming to advance women workers rights through stronger trade unions. The project will explore gender and power within the Association as well as strengthen their capacity to identify and represent women worker’s issues.

Workers in the informal economy hit earliest and hardest by COVID-19

It was Cambodia’s large informal economy workforce that were hit earliest and hardest by COVID-19. With support from Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA, IDEA is advocating for recognition of the extreme hardship its members are experiencing due to COVID-19. IDEA is calling for their members to have access to the national social safety net benefits extended to formal economy workers and for debt relief from banks.

Street vendors, waste collectors and domestic workers talk about the impact of COVID-19

In this series of three short videos, some of IDEA’s members explain firsthand how COVID-19 has affected them personally and call on the government to provide desperately-needed support.




លក់ដូរតាមដងផ្លូវ Three street vendors – Ying, Noeb and Heng – talk about the challenges of continuing their work during COVID-19 and the impact on their income – sales have declined but costs have increased. These women are calling on the government to provide street vendors access to health services (by issuing them with NSSF cards), set up a child care centre for children of street vendors and provide safe places to sell their produce.

រេីសអេតចាយ Meet Oun, Sok and Sem. Since the pandemic, work involving recyclable materials (waste collecting) has become more difficult as the price of recyclables has decreased. The dump site where these workers sift through waste to find recyclable material has also threatened to close down leaving workers without any means to earn an income. They are calling on the government to provide basic necessities like food (rice, fish sauce and soy sauce), support for children to attend school or child care, and access to health services.


អ្នកធ្វេីការតាមផ្ទះ Meet Em and Keo, two domestic workers who have both lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19. 62-year-old, Em has five children and works as a domestic worker. Due to COVID-19, she has had to take a loan from the bank and does not have enough income to buy food or rice for her family. She feels miserable because she can no longer give her grandchild milk, instead having to give him porridge instead. She has had to push back on the bank’s request for the loan to be repaid as she no longer has a job. Meanwhile 41-year-old Keo has asked her bank to delay her repayments as she no longer has a job due to COVID-19 and does not have an income. These women are calling on the government to give domestic workers the same rights as factory workers, establish child care centres, give access to healthcare and to reduce the interest rate payable to banks.

The Global Justice Organisation of the Australian Union Movement

The work of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA relies on the efforts of thousands of Australian unionists and internationalists who raise funds, volunteer, and take action to build solidarity across borders. 

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