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Myanmar’s garment industry is taking steps in the right direction amid political unrest

Myanmar’s garment industry at a glance

Myanmar’s garment industry has grown rapidly since 2011, after the country’s military government stepped down and foreign investment flooded the country. In 2014, revenues from the country’s garment industry reached approximately $1.5 billion—nearly double what they were just three years earlier. This growth is expected to continue as more factories are set up around the country to support the growing demand. Production is centred around Yangon, the country’s biggest industrial district, with some factories also located in Bago and Pathein.

Labour issues in Myanmar’s garment industry

Myanmar’s garment industry faces many serious challenges. While the country has shown significant progress on civil and political rights, its long history of political upheaval and unrest means the country’s workplace standards are seriously underdeveloped. Garment factories in Myanmar face high risks for violations, including low wages, long working hours, repression of union members, child labour and poor relationships between employers and unions. An estimated 90% of the workers in Myanmar are female and gender-based harassment and violence are common.

A particularly worrying development is the outbreak of violence against the Rohingya people in the Rakhine state of Myanmar in August 2017 when militants attacked government forces. While the Rohingya crisis is a serious concern, at present there does not seem to be a direct link to the garment sector, as no garment factories are present in the Rakhine state and Rohingya refugees are not allowed to work.

What Fair Wear is doing

Fair Wear has been active in Myanmar since 2016. We’ve seen a slow but steady increase in Fair Wear member brands sourcing from factories in Myanmar. Currently, 13 Fair Wear member brands source from 22 factories in the country.

Since there’s such a high-risk of labour violations, we have an Enhanced Monitoring Programme in place for Myanmar that requires Fair Wear member brands active in the country to take additional measures. This programme focuses on promoting freedom of association and improving communication between workers and factory management. Establishing a living wage and preventing child labour are also key concerns. Meanwhile, our existing Fair Wear Workplace Education Programme (WEP) module in Myanmar continues to train managers, supervisors and workers on fair working conditions and raises awareness about the Fair Wear complaints helpline available for workers to voice their concerns. We are also closely monitoring the Rohingya situation and any possible additional measures that the European Union may impose as a result.

Interested in calculating labour minute value and product costing for this country? Check out our country calculators here.


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