Stricter policy for overseas workers coming
MYANMAR will re-introduce a more stringent permit system for citizens wishing to work abroad starting on January 1, 2017. The new system aims at stamping out exploitation of migrant workers by employment brokers, according to labour ministry officials.
Under the current system, employment brokers are able to apply for passports and visas at one of Myanmar’s overseas employment agencies on behalf of workers.
In the past, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population had relaxed its requirements for migrant workers in an attempt to reduce delays and allow workers to travel overseas quickly.
Following the reforms announced by the ninistry, an old system to deal with migrant workers will be readopted requiring workers to apply directly with employment agencies for their travel documentation.
Workers will no longer be able to leave the country for employment abroad on a visitor’s visa.
“There have been many instances of excessive overcharging by brokers. This is why we are restarting our old system,” said U Myo Aung, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Labour.
He added that many brokers charge workers fees of K500,000 to K600,000 despite the legal limit on agency fees being K150,000.
The main reason for the change, U Myo Aun said, was to protect workers from exploitation, but the return to the old system will also allow the government to collect better data on outgoing migrant workers.
The return to the former, more stringent system will mean that migrant workers will only be able receive the necessary travel documents from a licensed agency and they must have a letter of support from an overseas employment agency or employer, according to Daw Tin Nwe Oo, deputy director of the Ministry of Labour.
Representatives of both licensed employment agencies and workers unions spoke favourably of the proposed reforms.
“Brokers can no longer apply for the documents. Only workers can apply for them with the help of overseas employment agencies or employers. Brokers don’t like our new system but it is good for workers,” said U Kyaw Zaw, general secretary of the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation.
“We appreciate this system. I believe it can give greater guarantees of safety for our workers, even if it isn’t perfect,” said Ko Hein Latt, assistant director of the migrant affairs department of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar.
The ministry has said that existing migrant workers should seek out these new work permits in the two months before the system is officially implemented.
Each month, nearly 7000 Myanmar citizens travel to neighbouring Thailand and Malaysia for work, where they are put at significant risk of exploitation by employers and harassment by local authorities.
A Myanmar migrant worker holds up two different passports. The return of an old system for migrant worker permitting seeks to curb exploitation.