Cambodia’s garment and footwear industry has seen an improvement in labour standards, according to the latest assessment from the International Labor Organization (ILO), with violations falling and compliance on the rise.
Its annual Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) report, published yesterday (4 December), shows the number of factories in compliance with all critical issues has increased from 33% to 44% since the launch of public reporting in 2013. The number of violations of the 21 critical issues decreased from 329 to 234 for the same period.
The report presents compliance data for assessments conducted in 464 factories in Cambodia during the period from 1 May 2017 to 30 June 2018.
Improvements were highest in regular emergency evacuation drills, while discrimination against workers, overtime wages, child labour and discrimination against workers based on union membership were also seen to have improved.
In order to address the issue of child labour at the industry level, BFC and the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) signed an agreement on how to investigate and remediate child labour cases. Since the launch of the collaboration in 2014, the number of underage workers found through BFC’s assessment process has reduced sharply from 74 cases in the reporting period May 2013 to April 2014, to ten cases in the current reporting period.
Others areas appear to have been less successful in showing progress. Twelve forced labour related practices were found in nine of the 464 factories assessed, mostly related to forced overtime, leaving the cluster in a similar picture as in the last reporting period.
Non-compliance levels within the freedom of association and collective bargaining cluster have gone up slightly, especially around union operations and interference and discrimination. Non-compliance instances were recorded in 155 of the 464 factories assessed.
In terms of working conditions, many areas related to occupational safety and health (OSH) continue to be a challenge for garment factories and are often the result of a lack of proper policies, procedures and division of roles and responsibilities on OSH, the assessment found.
According to Cambodia’s General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE), Cambodia’s garment and footwear exports rose by 9.5% in 2017 to US$8.02bn, up from $7.2bn in 2016. The sector remains the most important component of Cambodia’s exports, accounting for 72% of the country’s total merchandise exports in 2017.
The footwear sector demonstrated the strongest growth in 2017, with exports increasing by 14.4% to $873m, while exports of garments rose by 9% to $7.15bn. After a decline in the number of garment factories between 2015 and 2016, which was largely due to a reclassification of statistical data by the Ministry of Commerce, the number of factories grew from 626 in 2016 to 661 in 2017.
Based on GMAC’s data, the number of strikes fell by 32% in 2017, from 47 in 2016 to 32 in 2017; and the number of lost work-days was down 28.4% from 203,783 in 2016 to 145,907 in 2017.
Click here to access the full report.