Since 2001, Better Factories Cambodia has joined with workers, employers and government to improve working conditions and boost the competitiveness of the garment industry.
Originally, the project was linked to an innovative trade agreement with the United States that provided market access in return for improving working conditions in the garment sector. After the expiration of the trade agreement in 2004, the Cambodian Government, together with unions and employers, requested that the ILO set up a sustainability strategy to turn Better Factories Cambodia into a self-financing local institution. The ILO teamed up with the IFC to design and implement this strategy.
See Better Factories Cambodia and its 15-year journey
The first programme of its kind, BFC pioneered a unique approach to drive change that has inspired the establishment of the Better Work programme in seven other countries. With a current coverage of over 550 factories and 550,000 workers, BFC has helped to spur improvements in factory working conditions and workplace environment across the industry.
In Cambodia, the garment industry is a key provider of jobs that help to improve livelihoods of workers and their families. In 2015, it employed more than 650,000 workers and accounted for USD 6.28 billion, or roughly 80%, of Cambodia’s total export revenue. The total exports of the garment and footwear sector reached USD 6.3 billion in 2015, representing 7.6% growth over 2014.
Researchers from Tufts University studied data collected from 2001 to 2010 on Better Factories Cambodia, and found that significant progress has been made during this period, with potential for further improvements.
Here are some of their findings:
Factories subscribed with BFC consistently increase compliance with ILO core labour standards and national labour law in the Cambodian apparel sector. By the fourth BFC assessment visit, average compliance rates range from a low of 52% to a high of 95%, with the mass of the distribution between 75% and 95% compliance.
As compliance improves, workers’ income also increases. Cambodian households that include one garment worker earn 36.3% more than the national average income for similar households with no garment worker(s).
There is also a significant gender dimension in the payment of wages in the Cambodian apparel sector. In 1996, women workers earned nearly 40% less than men. In 2007, the gender wage gap had decreased to 17%. This reduction is correlated to the growth in apparel exports witnessed since BFC started.
BFC anti-corruption statement
Click here to see the BFC anti-corruption statement.