Myanmar opening up to the world: the need for fairer trade

Since international sanctions against Myanmar were suspended in 2012, the country’s garment industry has taken off. Sanctions nearly destroyed a once-thriving industry but now the number of workers – an estimated 300,000 in peak season – is back to a pre-sanctions level. What makes Myanmar appealing to international buyers is the 3,600 kyat [Dh11.39] daily […]

Since international sanctions against Myanmar were suspended in 2012, the country’s garment industry has taken off.

Sanctions nearly destroyed a once-thriving industry but now the number of workers – an estimated 300,000 in peak season – is back to a pre-sanctions level.

What makes Myanmar appealing to international buyers is the 3,600 kyat [Dh11.39] daily minimum wage. Only Bangladesh has a lower legal minimum, and Djibouti has no minimum.

But during the sanctions years the industry lost ground on its international competitors.

Productivity is low and companies are still struggling to improve working conditions and to raise environmental standards. Factories need more modern equipment if they are to compete internationally.

But Daw Khine Khine Nwe, secretary of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association, says they are being hindered by the refusal of brands to pay a fair rate for their output.

“We are asking the buyer to please increase the rate and we will share it with the worker,” she says.

“But they are not willing to pay. I want them to see the reality on the ground.

“We have a failed education system. We used to have the best education but the military government changed that.

“People live in rural areas, they don’t go to school, they help on the farm.

“They have no job. What to do? This industry is one of the industries providing jobs to these people with no education. But we don’t want to stay here long. We want to graduate from a poor country. To move up, you need help.

“We want to survive, but to survive we need to get the orders.

“The consumer also needs to understand; the consumer asks for better quality but when it comes to the price, they always look for the cheapest one.

“Which one do you want?”

* The Review

Source: art & life

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