For three hours, Cambodian seamstress Em Thy waited in a crowd with hundreds of other laid-off garment workers on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, desperate to be selected for a one-off shift.

Defeated, the 53-year-old shouted insults at the factory recruiters as they drove away without her one morning last week.

"Why is my fate is in the hands of these despicable brokers?" Thy said, having lost her job in March after two decades of consistent factory work.