• A new decent work programme for Myanmar has been framed against the backdrop of the country's transition to democracy and the rule of law, economic opening and social reform.

The priorities agreed are to generate employment and decent work as well as sustainable entrepreneurship opportunities

The priorities agreed are to generate employment and decent work as well as sustainable entrepreneurship opportunities

Myanmar has agreed its first Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP), which will work to promote employment, protect labour rights, improve safety at work and strengthen social dialogue in the country.

Running from 2018-2021, the new programme has been framed against the backdrop of Myanmar's transition to democracy and the rule of law, economic opening and social reform, as well as efforts to achieve peace and national reconciliation in a country that is one of the most ethnically diverse in the world. 

It was signed today (21 September) in Nay Pyi Taw at a ceremony held by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and presided by H.E. U Thein Swe, union minister of labour, immigration and population, and Greg Vines, ILO deputy director-general. 

Decent Work Country Programmes (DWCPs) are the main framework for delivering ILO's support to countries, and are focused on a number of priorities and outcomes. 

The Myanmar 2018-2021 plan was developed through a long consultation process by the National Tripartite Dialogue Forum (NTDF) – which is the peak body for social dialogue between Government, employers and workers organisations in Myanmar. 

The priorities agreed for the programme are to generate employment and decent work as well as sustainable entrepreneurship opportunities to all, including for vulnerable populations affected by conflict and disaster, and to strengthen the application of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work through improved labour market governance. The ILO's long-standing work for the elimination of forced labour will remain a core component of the plan.

It will also aim to progressively extend social protection coverage, especially for vulnerable workers and populations, and develop a comprehensive national system for occupational safety and health.

"Myanmar is fully committed to ILO's Decent Work agenda and is keen to implement its first DWCP together with our social partners," said H.E. U Thein Swe. "With the support of the ILO, we will not only succeed in attaining the envisaged goals and activities of this important programme, but we will also send a strong message the world that Myanmar is ready to address the various decent work challenges through a tripartite approach that includes representatives from the Government, employers and workers." 

The ILO's Vines added that the development of Myanmar's first DWCP represents a major step for ILO's engagement in Myanmar in support of the tripartite partners.

"Much progress has been made in many areas, yet certain challenges and gaps still need to be addressed, including for the elimination of forced labour," he stressed. "The ILO was founded 100 years ago on a vision of how promoting social justice was essential for achieving democracy and peace. That message has never been more relevant for Myanmar."

Secretary general of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM), U Than Lwin, said much still needs to be done to strengthen freedom of association in the country but, agreed that, with the support of the ILO, the new plan could bring about long-awaited changes.

"We employers welcome the Decent Work Country Program for Myanmar. It took nearly two years for the tripartite constituents to come to this state, but now the DWCP is fully aligned with the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan as well as the global SDGs. If accomplished, it will do good for the world of business and the world of work."