From Boycott to Boom? A Socio-Environmental Map of Myanmar’s Garment Industry in 2016

Posted by Maeve Galvin on Jan 24, 2017

The C&A Foundation commissioned Impactt – a consultancy specialising in ethical trade, human rights, and labour standards – to look at the socio-environmental impact of the dramatic growth of Myanmar's garment industry.

Since 2011, a series of political and economic reforms has seen both the EU and US lift sanctions to Myanmar. As a result, the value of its export garment industry has risen from 538 million USD in 2011 to 1,460 million USD in 2015.


In that time the number of jobs and factories has more than doubled and, by 2020, the industry is predicted to have an export value of 8 to 10 billion USD and will support 1,500,000 jobs.

While being seen as a largely positive development, concerns have been raised over low wages, extreme working hours, child labour and the environmental impact of the sector especially given the speed of the industry's growth.


The research looked at both those issues that most severely affect garment workers, and at how to reduce the environmental impact of the sector.

Results

The research was judged against the United Nations' rights-based framework.

The following issues were judged red

• The right to free and secure employment, especially the implementation of contracts and child labour
• The right to fair pay
• The right to form and join trade unions

The following issues were judged amber - indicating room for improvement

• Rest and leisure
• Safe working conditions
• Working free from discrimination

Desk research and conversations with stakeholders found that environmental issues around water and waste water should be classified as red, while solid waste and energy were rated as orange.

Lessons

The report makes a series of recommendations for private, corporate and public donors that include:

• Supporting the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) to develop a database that boosts the transparency and competiveness of the industry
• Raising the issues of gender, harassment and empowerment
• Carrying out research to 'lift the lid' on child labour and to show how small scale remediation can work
• Stimulating the development of a skills recognition programme to support worker empowerment, transparency and freedom
• Supporting environmental working groups to strengthen and sustain engagement.

The report makes a series of recommendations for private, corporate and public donors including measures to boost transparency in the industry, focusing on gender and empowerment issues and more.


C&A began supporting programmes in Myanmar in 2016 and is exploring further partnership opportunities in the strategic areas of worker empowerment and transparency in Myanmar's garment industry.


Download the full report here.