Brands and Myanmar's Child Workers

Image Courtesy: via Apparel Resources

Image Courtesy: via Apparel Resources

In a startling piece entitled "Huge numbers of Myanmar’s children forced to work", Daniel Breasant writes in the Southeast Asia Globe

"Newly released census data shows that more than 20% of the country’s 10 to 17 year olds are in work
"More than 1.5 million school-age children between 10 and 17 years of age in Myanmar are forced to work, according to data released on Tuesday from a 2014 census, the country’s first in three decades.
“After the census, we found that over 1.5 million children aged between 10 and 17 have to work, though they should go to school,” said Khaing Khaing Soe of the Ministry of Immigration and Population. The figure represents 21% of children in that age group."

So where are these child workers? Where are they working?

They are working in factories that are suppliers to the world's biggest and profitable brands. 

The ILO has issued a Rapid Assessment on the issue. In the Report, the ILO identifies the Hlaing Thar Yar Industrial Zone within Yangon as having a very high prevalence of child workers.

This Rapid Assessment (is) intended to capture data on the living, working and education status conditions of child labourers in the Hlaing Thar Yar Industrial Zone to inform the design of child labour prevention and elimination interventions for industrial zones. It also aimed to gather the perceptions of different groups about child labour, the effect of prior programmes for the elimination of child labour, and the attitudes of employers and local authorities to possible programme interventions.

Brands and apparel companies need to be cautious. There is much wrong and misleading information. For example, in this May 2016 Report from BSR, an organization that touts itself as a champion for worker's rights, there is the simply wrong and dangerous statement 

 Young workers are participating in the garment sector but usually make up a small percentage of a factory’s workforce, and underage workers are rare. 

The above statement is by BSR in their own recent publication. Its wrong. 

President Obama has lifted the restrictions there were on the Military backers. And brands are flocking to Myanmar. 

Children should be in school. Not working. They should be learning skills in school that give them opportunities for choice throughout their later life. Working in a garment factory at age 13, 14, 15 effectively enslaves an economic class to poverty and low wages their entire life. 

ILO Rapid Assessment concerning Hlaing Thar Yar Industrial Zone

Daniel Breasant's article  in the Southeast Asia Globe