IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Pioneering a New Approach to Improving Working Conditions in Developing Countries: Better Factories Cambodia


  • Robertson, Raymond

    (Texas A&M University)


The rise of global supply chains over the last three decades intensified international attention to the conditions endured by workers in poor countries. Collapsed buildings, fires and death created an imperative to address poor conditions. Consumers, non-governmental organizations, inter-governmental organizations, international buyers and governments began seeking ways to improve working conditions in exporting factories in developing countries. The goals of this chapter is to describe the birth and growth of the Better Factories Cambodia (BFC) program, review the academic literature that has focused on both the BFC program and its descendent, Better Work, and identify some of the key aspects of the program that have been shown to be particularly successful.

Suggested Citation

  • Robertson, Raymond, 2020. "Pioneering a New Approach to Improving Working Conditions in Developing Countries: Better Factories Cambodia," IZA Discussion Papers 13095, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp13095

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Drusilla K Brown & Alan V Deardorff & Robert M Stern, 2013. "Labor Standards and Human Rights: Implications for International Trade and Investment," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Zdenek Drabek & Petros Mavroidis (ed.), Regulation of Foreign Investment Challenges to International Harmonization, chapter 5, pages 153-195, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    2. Nicholas Bloom & Benn Eifert & Aprajit Mahajan & David McKenzie & John Roberts, 2013. "Does Management Matter? Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(1), pages 1-51.
    3. Günseli Berik & Yana Van Der Meulen Rodgers, 2010. "Options for enforcing labour standards: Lessons from Bangladesh And Cambodia," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(1), pages 56-85.
    4. Yoko Asuyama & Dalin Chhun & Takahiro Fukunishi & Seiha Neou & Tatsufumi Yamagata, 2013. "Firm dynamics in the Cambodian garment industry: firm turnover, productivity growth and wage profile under trade liberalization," Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(1), pages 51-70.
    5. Locke, Richard M. & Qin, Fei & Brause, Alberto, 2007. "Does monitoring improve labor standards? Lessons from Nike," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 59405, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    6. Chikako Oka, 2016. "Improving Working Conditions in Garment Supply Chains: The Role of Unions in Cambodia," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 54(3), pages 647-672, September.
    7. Kanchana N. Ruwanpura & Neil Wrigley, 2011. "The costs of compliance? Views of Sri Lankan apparel manufacturers in times of global economic crisis," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(6), pages 1031-1049, November.
    8. Samira Bakhshi & William A. Kerr, 2008. "Incorporating labour standards in trade agreements: protectionist ploy or legitimate trade policy issue?," International Journal of Trade and Global Markets, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 1(4), pages 373-391.
    9. Vivek Dehejia & Yiagadeesen Samy, 2004. "Trade and labour standards: theory and new empirical evidence," The Journal of International Trade & Economic Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(2), pages 179-198.
    10. Raymond Robertson & Drusilla Brown & Gaëlle Pierre & María Laura Sanchez-Puerta, 2009. "Globalization, Wages, and the Quality of Jobs : Five Country Studies," World Bank Publications - Books, The World Bank Group, number 2654, December.
    11. Anne Posthuma & Arianna Rossi, 2017. "Coordinated governance in global value chains: supranational dynamics and the role of the International Labour Organization," New Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(2), pages 186-202, March.
    12. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
    13. Edme Dominguez & Rosalba Icaza & Cirila Quintero & Silvia Lopez & Åsa Stenman, 2010. "Women Workers in the Maquiladoras and the Debate on Global Labor Standards," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(4), pages 185-209.
    14. Yi, Chun-gu,, 2016. "Global supply chain dynamics and labour governance : implications for social upgrading," ILO Working Papers 994949292502676, International Labour Organization.
    15. Jennifer Bair, 2017. "Contextualising compliance: hybrid governance in global value chains," New Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(2), pages 169-185, March.
    16. Noemi Sinkovics & Samia Ferdous Hoque & Rudolf R. Sinkovics, 2016. "Rana Plaza collapse aftermath: are CSR compliance and auditing pressures effective?," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 29(4), pages 617-649, May.
    17. Debra Ang & Drusilla Brown & Rajeev Dehejia & Raymond Robertson, 2012. "Public Disclosure, Reputation Sensitivity, and Labor Law Compliance: Evidence from B etter F actories C ambodia," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(4), pages 594-607, November.
    18. David Weil & Archon Fung & Mary Graham & Elena Fagotto, 2006. "The effectiveness of regulatory disclosure policies," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(1), pages 155-181.
    19. Melanie Beresford, 2009. "The Cambodian clothing industry in the post-MFA environment: a review of developments," Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 366-388.
    20. Michaël Bonnal, 2010. "Export Performance, Labor Standards and Institutions: Evidence from a Dynamic Panel Data Model," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 53-66, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Raymond Robertson, 2020. "Lights On: How Transparency Increases Compliance in Cambodian Global Value Chains," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 73(4), pages 939-968, August.
    2. Brown, Drusilla & Dehejia, Rajeev & Robertson, Raymond, 2016. "Laws, Costs, Norms, and Learning: Improving Working Conditions in Developing Countries," IZA Discussion Papers 10025, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Robertson, Raymond, 2019. "Working Conditions, Transparency, and Compliance in Global Value Chains: Evidence from Better Work Jordan," IZA Discussion Papers 12794, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Robertson, Raymond & Brown, Drusilla & Dehejia, Rajeev, 2016. "Working Conditions and Factory Survival: Evidence from Better Factories Cambodia," IZA Discussion Papers 10026, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Greg Distelhorst & Jens Hainmueller & Richard M. Locke, 2017. "Does Lean Improve Labor Standards? Management and Social Performance in the Nike Supply Chain," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 63(3), pages 707-728, March.
    6. Chikako Oka, 2014. "Evaluating a Promising Model of Non-State Labor Regulation: The Case of Cambodia's Apparel Sector," Post-Print hal-03181247, HAL.
    7. Anthony Goerzen & Simon Peter Iskander & Joerg Hofstetter, 2021. "The effect of institutional pressures on business-led interventions to improve social compliance among emerging market suppliers in global value chains," Journal of International Business Policy, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 4(3), pages 347-367, September.
    8. Jean-Christophe Graz & Nicole Helmerich & Cécile Prébandier, 2020. "Hybrid Production Regimes and Labor Agency in Transnational Private Governance," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 162(2), pages 307-321, March.
    9. Iain J. Fraser & Julia Schwarzkopf & Martin Müller, 2020. "Exploring Supplier Sustainability Audit Standards: Potential for and Barriers to Standardization," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(19), pages 1-31, October.
    10. Guido Friebel & Matthias Heinz & Miriam Krueger & Nikolay Zubanov, 2017. "Team Incentives and Performance: Evidence from a Retail Chain," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(8), pages 2168-2203, August.
    11. repec:ilo:ilowps:470016 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Hazhir Rahmandad & Nelson Repenning, 2016. "Capability erosion dynamics," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(4), pages 649-672, April.
    13. Stefan Bender & Nicholas Bloom & David Card & John Van Reenen & Stefanie Wolter, 2018. "Management Practices, Workforce Selection, and Productivity," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(S1), pages 371-409.
    14. Nicholas Bloom & Christos Genakos & Raffaella Sadun & John Van Reenen, 2011. "Management Practices Across Firms and Countries," CEP Discussion Papers dp1109, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    15. Mano, Yukichi & Akoten, John & Yoshino, Yutaka & Sonobe, Tetsushi, 2014. "Teaching KAIZEN to small business owners: An experiment in a metalworking cluster in Nairobi," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 25-42.
    16. Zhiqi Chen & Afshan Dar‐Brodeur, 2020. "Trade and labour standards: Will there be a race to the bottom?," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 53(3), pages 916-948, August.
    17. Andreas Menzel, 2017. "Knowledge Exchange and Productivity Spill-overs in Bangladeshi Garment Factories," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp607, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    18. Margaret A. Abernethy & Chung-Yu Hung & Laurence van Lent, 2020. "Expertise and Discretionary Bonus Decisions," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(1), pages 415-432, January.
    19. Jieun Chang & Youngho Kang, 2019. "Instrumental Variable Estimates of the Effect of Management Practices on Firm Performance in Korean Firms," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 40(1), pages 106-125, March.
    20. Venkatesh, V.G. & Zhang, Abraham & Deakins, Eric & Mani, Venkatesh, 2021. "Antecedents of social sustainability noncompliance in the Indian apparel sector," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 234(C).
    21. Karplus, Valerie J. & Geissmann, Thomas & Zhang, Da, 2021. "Institutional complexity, management practices, and firm productivity," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 142(C).

    More about this item


    working conditions; global value chains; Cambodia; Better Factories Cambodia;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
    • F66 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization - - - Labor
    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • J8 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp13095. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Holger Hinte (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.