Myan­mar ap­proves first-ever na­tional min­i­mum wage

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

Myan­mar’s gov­ern­ment has ap­proved the coun­try’s first-ever na­tional min­i­mum wage, state media re­ported on Au­gust 29, af­ter months of bit­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions with labour groups and em­ploy­ers.

The wage has been set at 3,600 kyat ($2.80) “for a stan­dard eighthour work day” and took ef­fect on Septem­ber 1.

It will ap­ply to work­ers “across all sec­tors and in­dus­tries” but small busi­nesses em­ploy­ing less than 15 peo­ple will be ex­cluded, it added.

Myan­mar has seen a wave of protests for bet­ter pay and con­di­tions, par­tic­u­larly among work­ers in the grow­ing gar­ment sec­tor, af­ter decades of di­rect junta rule came to an end in 2011.

The de­ci­sion on the wage, an­nounced by the Na­tional Min­i­mum Wage Com­mit­tee on Au­gust 28, fol­lows sev­eral rounds of talks be­tween the gov­ern­ment, labour groups, em­ploy­ers and work­ers since a law ap­prov­ing its in­tro­duc­tion was passed in 2013.

It comes as part of the plethora of po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic re­forms in­tro­duced un­der the quasi-civil­ian gov­ern­ment that has also seen a growth in for­eign in­vest­ment, with big brands look­ing to move into the na­tion af­ter most in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions were dropped.

But even the low sum reached had been ve­he­mently op­posed by some em­ploy­ers who claim that low worker pro­duc­tiv­ity in Myan­mar meant they could not af­ford to pay more.

Pres­sure to adopt a fair min­i­mum wage has also come from out­side with a num­ber of Western man­u­fac­tur­ers ar­gu­ing that poor pay was coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

In Myan­mar em­ploy­ees had pre­vi­ously been de­mand­ing a min­i­mum of 4,000 kyat ($3.10) a day with protests over wages out­side fac­to­ries in re­cent months see­ing sev­eral labour­ers ar­rested in the en­su­ing po­lice crack­downs.

In neigh­bour­ing Thai­land, where an es­ti­mated two mil­lion Myan­mar na­tion­als form part of a vast mi­grant labour force, the na­tional min­i­mum wage is set at 300 baht ($8) per day. But rights groups say Myan­mar mi­grants are of­ten paid less than this amount, work­ing in poor con­di­tions and sub­ject to ex­ploita­tion.

Re­gion­ally, de­bate over im­prov­ing fac­tory con­di­tions and worker pay has in­ten­si­fied since the deadly 2013 col­lapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh high­lighted ap­palling safety prob­lems in the coun­try’s lu­cra­tive gar­ment in­dus­try.

Fac­tory work­ers on strike. Photo: EPA

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