Since May 2017, the Centre for Economic and Social Development (CESD) and International Growth Centre (IGC) have conducted research in Myanmar on the socio-economic conditions of hand pickers; freelance jade collectors who parse discarded soil and rocks from industrial mining. Many believe there are between 200,000-400,000 individuals working in the artisanal jade industry in Myanmar, with many self-employed as independent hand pickers. The research focuses on pickers who work shoulder to shoulder on the steep sides of towering loose rock formations. Landslides, malaria, and other hazards claim the lives of many pickers, however, individuals from all over Myanmar are driven by the allure of fortune to the hazardous occupation.
Recently, CESD traveled to Hpakant in Kachin State—a major jade mining hub in Myanmar. During the visit, enumerators and CESD employees gathered quantitative data by distributing questionnaires to independent hand pickers. The initial data gathering found the majority of hand pickers are male; out of nearly 250 respondents, less than 5% are female. With quantitative data collection complete, CESD has begun data cleaning and analysis, including the analysis of secondary data. The study also considers qualitative data gathered from interviews with members of the jade industry and its governance bodies at local, state, and union levels. These qualitative interviews include members of the private sector, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, the media, religious leaders, political parties, non-state actors, parliament, and the executive branch.
The study hopes to detail the jade trade in Myanmar from a producer’s standpoint, specifically detailing the industry’s informal and formal governance, political economy, and the supply chain. CESD looks forward to completing the report by May 2018.