Last year Myanmar agreed its first-ever minimum wage for garment workers

Last year Myanmar agreed its first-ever minimum wage for garment workers

Stakeholders working to improve workers' rights in Myanmar have praised ongoing progress on labour reforms in the country, and set out their future goals.

Launched two years ago in November 2014, the initiative to Promote Fundamental Labor Rights and Practices in Myanmar is supported by the US, Denmark, Japan, the European Union (EU) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Its goals are to modernise Myanmar's labour code, improve compliance with international labour standards, and foster a robust dialogue between the government, business, labour and civil society.

At its recent second stakeholder forum in Yangon, the partners said future priorities will focus on the development of a modern labour law, institutional capacity building for the labour market, a body to fix the minimum wage, and strengthened labour inspection and dispute settlement bodies.

Key areas for reforms also include enhancing protection of the associated rights of workers and employers organisations, strengthening labour dispute management, reviewing employment contracts, combatting the worst forms of child labour and ensuring occupational safety and health protection.

They also praised progress since the last stakeholders' forum in May 2015, which has seen a tripartite commitment to labour law reform; agreement that new legislation must comply with international labour standards; and plans to institutionalise the National Tripartite Dialogue Forum, chaired by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, which will serve as the prime consultation mechanism for the labour law reform process.

The country also agreed its first-ever minimum wage last August and several major legislative amendments have also been enacted, including raising the minimum working age from 13 to 14 years; development of the list of hazardous work for children under 18 years old; and development of an occupational safety and health bill.

Myanmar approves first minimum wage

A third stakeholders' forum will take place in 2017.

Ongoing reforms in Myanmar led the US last month to restore trade benefits to the country after a lapse of more than 25 years. It will be added to the US's Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade preference programme from 13 November.

US to restore Myanmar's GSP duty-free trade status

In contrast, the European Union (EU) removed most sanctions three years ago, and reinstated tariff-free access for most Myanmar goods under its GSP scheme. As a result, its garment imports from Myanmar reached EUR423m (US$473m) in 2015, accounting for 62% of trade between the two partners.

The latest figures shared with just-style last month by the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) showed garment exports reached around US$1.80bn in 2015, up from $1.70bn the year before. 

Myanmar garment exports surged 20% in 2015