Child labor in Myanmar’s garment sector challenges and recommendations

Child labor in Myanmar’s garment sector challenges and recommendations

Buyers and investors are back in Yangon looking for opportunities, attracted in part by the country’s low labour costs. However, Myanmar has spent over a decade cut off from Western markets and the compliance culture that has evolved around social and environmental management of supply chains.

Meeting buyer expectations now requires not only investing to meet higher requirements for speed and quality, but also ensuring that labor practices meet or exceed international standards.

Child labour is a particular area of concern. In a country with high levels of poverty, low rates of secondary school enrollment, and weak enforcement of labour laws, child labour is unsurprisingly a common option for families in need of additional income. Underage workers (younger than 14, the legal minimum) are prevalent in many sectors, ranging from construction to teashops.
This report explains the context of child labour in Myanmar, both across sectors and specifically for garment manufacturing.
Findings include:
  • young workers are participating in the garment sector but usually make up a small percentage of a factory’s workforce, and underage workers are rare. However, young workers are often working the same hours as adults, and laws regulating their working hours and conditions are not being enforced
  • increased access to U.S. and European markets is reshapin g the garment industry, but the majority of factories are not yet selling to U.S. and European buyers, and their labour practices are lagging

Key recommendations:

To prevent and remediate child labour, buyers and investors should support the establishment of a protective framework. This will require consistent and sustained action by diverse stakeholders, including:
  • enacting clear and coherent laws and regulations
  • fostering cultural norms that prioritize education for children until the legal minimum working age
  • ensuring livelihoods for adults that can support the entire household
  • implementing a system of monitoring and enforcement that includes workers, management, inspectors, unions, and community members