Impoverished Cambodia has joined the International Labor Organization this week in a new program to boosting monitoring of its garment factories. The country is relying on its labor-friendly image to stay competitive as the newest member of the World Trade Organization.
Cambodia and the International Labor Organization launched the 'Better Factories Cambodia Project' to boost fair labor standards. The project will introduce a web-based monitoring system in English, Chinese and Khmer to highlight if garment factories are respecting or violating international labor standards.
Cambodia's attention to decent labor practices has already made it the darling of socially responsible corporate buyers, like sports giants Adidas and Nike. As a result, Cambodia's fledging garment industry is now worth almost $2 billion.
The U.N. labor organization now wants to help Cambodia maintain this competitive edge against faster, cheaper manufacturing nations. This is crucial now that Cambodia has lost special trade quota privileges and has to compete as a new member of the World Trade Organization.
Sally Paxton, the general director of the I.L.O.'s Social Dialogue program.
"We think that if the adherence to core labor standards is going to be the selling point for the garment industry in Cambodia, that the Cambodians, and I think they do fully recognize that the two of them have to go hand and hand, and that buyers and that others look at these issues when they're making choices about where to source," said Sally Paxton.
Dan Henkle, the vice president of the U.S. clothing retailer Gap Inc, says labor standards are a main reason why his company is one of Cambodia's biggest buyers.
Gap Inc and the World Bank said this week they would train 650 factory supervisors in seven Cambodian factories to improve labor standards and dispute resolution. The one-year project will cost $80,000.