August 19, 2016

Oxfam report exposes poor working conditions in garments industry

Garment factory workers in an industrial zone in Yangon.
Garment factory workers in an industrial zone in Yangon.

MANY of Myanmar’s garment workers are working 11 hour shifts and doing six day weeks, while remaining trapped in a cycle of poverty of debt despite the introduction of a minimum wage, according to a new report by Oxfam.
The report was published on Wednesday and is based on research carried out in June and July at 22 factories in Yangon Region.
The report suggests that the national minimum wage of K3, 600 per day (the equivalent of US$83 a month) which was introduced this September, is inadequate to meet the basic needs of workers and their families.
Almost half of all workers surveyed are caught in a cycle of poverty and debt – even when overtime earnings raise monthly wages to an average of US$98. Most workers interviewed said that they regularly borrow money in order to pay for basic items.
Oxfam also cited safety as an issue of concern, with one in three workers reporting being injured onsite. Others expressed fear about what would happen in the event of a fire, as exits are often blocked or even locked.
Working conditions were found to be poor, with one in four workers being forced to do overtime and some not being compensated for overtime work. Workers also reported being subjected to verbal abuse by factory supervisors.
Oxfam has issued an urgent call to international companies buying garments from Myanmar, as well as their supplier factories, to improve transparency and monitoring across the industry.
UK-based Oxfam is a global confederation of 17 organisations and works in more than 90 countries to address issues such as poverty alleviation. Its report was produced in cooperation with labour groups in Myanmar.


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