For decades Myanmar been under military rule and isolation and is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia with low wages poor working conditions, virtually no social dialogue and low productivity.
Only since 2015 has Myanmar initiated change towards democratic governance and welcomed foreign economic activities. As part of this transformation, Myanmar has set a target to become a competitive location for high quality and sustainable garment production and to improve productivity by 25% over the next 10 years.
Challenges and opportunities in the Myanmar garment industry
A major challenge in textile production in Myanmar today is that working conditions are poor - In particular for female workers that represent 85% of Myanmar garment workers. Poor working conditions include poor working environments, low wages, absenteeism, and high staff turnover
A central component in improving productivity and working conditions for all employees is the existence of a well-working industrial relations system. Despite recent legal changes and the creation of 1.500 factory level trade unions and 30 employers’ associations, Myanmar is in the very early stages of the development of its industrial relations system.
The current situation is such that trade unions have limited knowledge about social dialogue, collective bargaining, and productivity based salary structures This presents significant challenges as well as opportunities for creating the conditions for synergies between improved work environment, social dialogue and productivity in the Myanmar garment sector.
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