A worker does a precise cut using a safety glove. Most factories in Myanmar require safety gloves during cutting, those not using such equipment risk serious injury to their employees and to their company’s reputation.
One of the many reasons Myanmar’s garment sector has become attractive for foreign investors is because of the relatively low cost of labour in Myanmar. However, despite extensive interest & research, wildly disparate conclusions have been reached about how much garment factory employees earn in Myanmar.
MGMA participates in tripartite dialogues of government, employer and employee to develop a responsible minimum wage for the country – one which can stand as both a living wage for factory employees and which is also a wage realistic enough to allow Myanmar’s garment factories to be internationally competitive and profitable. On May 14th, 2018 the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population announced minimum wage as 4800 kyats per day.
Under current law, factories must pay workers overtime wages (double wages) when workers exceed 44hrs/week. Because of the rapid growth of the sector, garment factories sometimes find labour retention problematic, as qualified sewing operators naturally seek out the highest paying positions available to them. In some factories, qualified sewing operators earn upwards of $200 US per month (inclusive of overtime).
Wages vary from city to city and from factory to factory. Labour in the garment factories in Pathein region, for instance, is more affordable. Labour in Yangon can be more expensive. When international media report low wage figures they are typically reporting wages which are not including any overtime pay, production bonuses or attendance bonuses. When factories report high wages they are typically doing the opposite – including the full package of wage benefits a worker can receive, inclusive of overtime.
MGMA directly supports human resources development in the Myanmar garment sector via the association’s training facility in Yangon (MGHRDC).
The Myanmar garment sector is actually a leader in terms of confronting the issue of child labour. Myanmar is a developing country. The current situation is that many children lack access to quality education. Taking a job at a young age is seen by many families as essential to ensure their day-to-day survival. Many industries in Myanmar employ young workers, from rice mills & tea shops to wood processing factories and, yes, garment factories.
However, at MGMA we recognize that this situation will not (indeed, should not) change overnight. Our industry can do better, but there must be a responsible transition period from employing workers who are underage to ensuring that underage labour is totally ended in the industry. Abolishing all underage employment in the garment industry, even if it could be accomplished in one moment, would result in many underage persons – 90% of them young women – seeking desperate alternatives to ensure their family’s survival. We don’t want their alternative to garment industry work to be something negative. We want education and schooling to be their alternative.
We acknowledge the reality, too, that European and US buyers – in addition to buyers in dozens of other countries – have a strong and unyielding opposition to sourcing from garment factories who employ any underage persons. As such, MGMA can help your company learn how to source from factories in Myanmar which are child labour free. Our favorite foreign retailers are those who work side-by-side with MGMA’s member factories to help them reach international compliance. Your company’s garment purchases can help push an entire industry towards socially responsible and environmentally sustainable business practices. Several European retailers are already working with us to accomplish these objective. Contact us and join with us to learn how your company can help us end child labour responsibly.
Effectively verifying worker age is critically important for ensuring that employees are of legal employment age for factory work. Requiring a valid National ID card is one approach. However, because many workers in the garment industry originate from distant locations (oftentimes, small towns and villages), completing the rigorous steps necessary to receive a valid ID card is extremely burdensome, and for many, simply beyond practical reach.
An alternative approach is to accept township-level documents identifying worker age. Workers who are below 18 years of age are legally required to get a Social Security Board certification. This means they need to be examined by a medical doctor to determine fitness to work and to assess age.
The document to the right is an example of a fitness certification from a 16 year-old factory employee. The testament of age is legally binding and recorded via biometric documentation (fingerprints). In addition, a medical professional makes a spot judgement based on physical appearance.
It is MGMA’s recommendation that foreign retailers and sourcing agents request factories from whom they source to require township documentation certifying age in addition to an SSB certification. This is a reasonable approach to verify employee age in Myanmar. Requiring a National ID can be done, but realistically it is just as liable to fraud as the township/SSB requirement.
Individuals below 15 years of age are ineligible for factory work in Myanmar.