The Centre for Economic and Social Development (CESD), in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population (MoLIP), presented findings on the labour industry in Myanmar on the 20th of September 2018 at Thingaha Hotel, Nay Pyi Taw.
Participants included government officials, members of Parliament and development partners. Furthermore, visiting experts from Vietnam and Cambodia were in attendance as an effort to increase ASEAN cooperation and foster South-South knowledge sharing.
The workshop presented several areas of research that CESD has worked on:
- The state of the garment industry in Myanmar based on research findings
- The potential of the garment industry to promote equal opportunity for women in Myanmar
- The impacts from the establishment of the minimum wage in Myanmar
- The regional contribution of Myanmar migrant workers and the number of remittances sent back to Myanmar
- Identifying the patterns of internal and international migration for Myanmar migrant workers, the migration process and the conditions of their employment
According to CESD’s Apparel Survey in 2017, Myanmar national-owned garment industries have been struggling to survive, resulting in a 10% reduction in employment in 2017. Conversely, privately-owned enterprises have increased their employment by 10% in 2017, with 50% considering further market expansion. Therefore, it is important to understand these implications and what policies need to be implemented in order to manage the changes taking place. Based on the fact that approximately 90% of production workers employed in the industry are women, research and stakeholder consultations suggest that the garment industry has the potential to promote equal opportunity for women, who are critical for participatory development.
Myanmar workers have benefited from the establishment of the national minimum wage. In 2016, one year after the policy was implemented, the income of the lowest-wage workers from garment and food industries increased by 70%, as well as a 9% increase for skilled-workers. However, 10% of these workers reported not being able to enjoy the benefits of the minimum wage. Tripartite labour dispute resolving mechanisms were reported to be functioning adequately in the Yangon region, with a 30% reduction in labour disputes in the 2017-18 financial year. This is an impressive result, given that the region is responsible for 85% of national labour disputes.
One of the benefits of migration is the inflow of remittances which are critical for rural development in Myanmar, with approximately 70% of remittances directly flowing to rural families. The 2015 CESD’s Household Survey identified that Mon state comprised of the highest number of migrant workers in comparison to other states and regions. The use of formal remittance channels has increased over time due to better access to services. However, the majority of Myanmar’s migrant workers are working in low-wage countries because they are considered low-semi skilled workers. Moreover, there is a disparity between yearly remittance amounts based on location: the total from Thailand only amounted to MMK 1,000,000, whereas the total from South Korea reached approximately MMK 3,800,000. South Korea for example, is a higher earning country and requires higher skilled workers.
This workshop was pivotal in providing insight into the research findings based on labour reforms currently taking place in Myanmar. Furthermore, the workshop was a culmination of sorts for the CESD labour market reform project that is funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) Canada.
Further resources on Labour Market Reform can be found here