Challenging the Financial Inclusion-Decent Work Nexus: Evidence from Cambodia’s Over-indebted Internal Migrants

Nithya Natarajan, Katherine Brickell, Vincent Guermond, Sabina Lawreniuk, Laurie Parsons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we question the promotion of financial inclusion, and microfinance specifically, as a means to achieve ‘Decent Work’ (DW) under the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) programme. Drawing upon original research findings from two types of internal migrants in Cambodia, we make a twin contention: first, that excessive levels of microfinance borrowing by garment workers are part-outcome of the failings of the DW programme to engender ‘decent enough work’, and second, that microfinance borrowing is actually eroding rather than contributing to the prospect of decent work for debt-bonded brickmakers in the country. The data presented on two of the largest sectors contributing to Cambodia’s growth in recent decades, enable the paper to show how microfinance and labour precarity are intertwined through the over-indebtedness of workers in both cases. The paper ultimately looks to caution the ILO on its current promotion of financial inclusion and microfinance in particular, stressing the need for significant sectoral reforms before this form of credit can be considered to align with the core principles of the DW programme.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361–381
Number of pages20
JournalGlobal Public Policy and Governance
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2021

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