The International Labor Organization's (ILO) Better Factories Cambodia monitoring and reporting scheme is expanding its services to the country's footwear industry for the first time.

The move follows a pilot project to better understand conditions and compliance needs in footwear factories.

BFC will offer bundled services to footwear factories through a voluntary programme, providing a compliance assessment and customised advisory services on an annual basis. Special attention will be given to chemical management and safety because of the potential impact on workers' health.

There are 45 footwear factories in Cambodia with total exports of about $300m.

Although Cambodia is considered to be too small to support a large footwear industry, it is believed to be well suited to support smaller-scale production. The industry is expected to grow gradually, with many factories producing for suppliers in Vietnam.

Launched back in 2001, the BFC programme was introduced to improve working conditions in the country's garment production plants, by ensuring facilities comply with international recognised labour standards and Cambodia's own labour laws.

But recent criticisms claim BFC has been increasingly powerless to address long-standing labour rights problems in the Cambodian garment industry or to prevent a slow backward slide in certain conditions for workers.