Release of BSR's "Child Labour in Myanmar's Garment Sector" Report

June 22, 2016

A recently-released report based on research funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) highlights challenges, opportunities, and recommended reforms related to child labour issues in Myanmar’s garment manufacturing sector, with a focus on informing international buyers and investors.

The report – Child Labor in Myanmar’s Garment Sector – was produced by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR). It is particularly timely as international business stakeholders show rising interest in Myanmar with the lifting of sanctions and subsequent renewed access to US and EU markets. The report is intended to help guide responsible businesses and investors on the issue of child labour in Myanmar’s garment sector.

IDRC’s support for this research is part of a broader effort to fund projects that explore what drives child labour in developing countries. The release of the report came just ahead of the annual “World Day Against Child Labour” on June 12.

The report highlights Myanmar’s entrance into a new era of political and socioeconomic reform following the lifting of sanctions, and how global markets are highly interested in the country’s industrial potential. However, Myanmar’s prolonged absence from global markets means it lags behind other countries in terms of social and environmental management of supply chains. The incidence of child labour in the garment sector is of particular concern. The research found that young workers are participating in the garment sector, but that they typically make up a small percentage of a factor’s workforce and the presence of underage workers are rare. However, young workers often work the same hours as adults, and laws regulating their working hours and conditions are poorly enforced. The presence of young people in Myanmar’s workforce is an issue across many sectors. Nearly one quarter of children in Myanmar aged 10-17 years old are participating in the workforce. BSR found that Myanmar’s high poverty rates, low secondary school enrollment, and weak labour law enforcement all contribute to child labour.

BSR’s report includes several key recommendations:

  • Enacting clear and coherent law and regulations
  • Fostering cultural norms that prioritize education for children while improving the quality of their education
  • Ensuring adult livelihoods are able to support the entire household

These recommendations will help Myanmar’s low-skilled labour force catch up with the global economy and sustain rapid economic growth, while discouraging child labour.

The report is part of an ongoing project (project number 108057), which seeks to promote solutions, together with the private sector, for the problem of under-age labour in Myanmar, among other objectives related to child labour in the country. Other relevant IDRC-funded projects include TAG-UK’s training for work among agricultural college graduates in rural Myanmar (project number 108265). IDRC has also partnered with Myanmar’s Centre for Economic and Social Development (CESD) to support further labour reforms.

About the Employment and Growth Program

This project is supported by IDRC's Employment and Growth program, which seeks to enhance the employment and economic opportunities of vulnerable groups, particularly women and youth. For more information, please visit our home page.

Related Employment and Growth initiatives include: Better Jobs in Asia and Reforming Labour Markets in Myanmar.

  • Find more of IDRC’s Myanmar projects here
  • Find several IDRC projects highlighted in the 2016 “Asia Research News” Magazine, free download here