ILO Centenary

23 October

Countries of the world were working toward long term existence of the world and labour or workers affair is becoming a major driving force toward each country’s sustainable development.

Labour or workers affair is the affair of the entire world and International Labour Organization (ILO) is the sole United Nations organization formed with representatives of governments, employers and workers from 187 member countries raising appropriate work opportunities for workers, setting worker/labour norms and establishing policies. ILO was established in 1919 and in 2019 it is 100 years old. Centenary of ILO will be celebrated in Myanmar as well as all member countries.

Myanmar became a member of ILO in 18 May 1948 and was discussing together with other member countries labour/workers affair, migrant worker, child labour, forced labour, unemployment, labour dispute, being in line with standards and norms set by ILO and basic labour rights in work site together with other member countries.

Labour and workers affairs and sustainable development goals

Of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by United Nations (UN), goal 8 of “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all” is an important goal for workers. Goal 1 of “End extreme poverty in all forms by 2030,” goal 2 of “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture,” goal 3 of “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages,” goal 4 of “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all,” and goal 5 of “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” are related in one way or another to workers. These goals were to be achieved with the support and assistance of ILO.

2008 Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Chapter 1 Section 31 said “The Union shall, to extent possible, assist to reduce unemployment among the people” while one of the 12 polices in the Economic Policy of the Union of Myanmar said “employment opportunities for all citizens including those returning from abroad are to be created and to give greater priority in the short term to economic enterprises that create many job opportunities.” Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (2018-2030) also includes a strategy to “Protect the rights and harness the productivity of all, including migrant workers.”

Obtaining decent employment

The tripartite of government, employer and employee approved the Myanmar Decent Work Country Programme 2018-2022 on 21 September 2018 and a memorandum of understanding with ILO was signed.

The programme will be implemented through three set priorities of:

1. Employment and decent work and sustainable entrepreneurship opportunities are available and accessible to all, including for vulnerable populations affected by conflict and disaster

2. Application of Fundamental Principles and Rights at work is strengthened through improved labour market governance

3. Social protection coverage for all is progressively extended, especially for vulnerable workers and populations

Migrant worker issue

According to International Organization for Migration (IOM) Indicator 2018 of the world’s population of 7.6 billion, 258 million were migrant workers of which 7.8 per cent were from Southeast Asia. Lack of job opportunities, differences in wages and salary, development of technology are causing the rise in the numbers of migrant workers. Myanmar became the 147th member of IOM in 2012.

Issue of child labour

The Convention concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, known in short as the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention adopted by ILO in 1999 as ILO Convention No 182 defines child as youngster below the age of 18 or children between the age of 5 and 17 years. Myanmar has a growing child labour problem. According to a study conducted in 2016, Myanmar had about 1.3 million child labour that was 10 percent of the child population. The main problem was poverty and low education. Most child labours were educated up to the primary level only and were working in dangerous work sites and places. Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population was drawing up a list of dangerous work for children with the help of ILO and had also formed a Myanmar National Committee on Child Labour Eradication.

Forced labour issue

2008 Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Section 359 states that the Union prohibits forced labour except hard labour as a punishment for crime duly convicted and duties assigned by the Union in accord with the law in the interest of the public. Many laws prescribed penalties and punishment for any act of forced labour. Myanmar was working together with ILO toward drawing up and approving a forced labour eradication work programme (2019-2020).

Unemployment issue

Myanmar was working toward resolving this issue through giving priority to manufacturing sector that will provide most employment opportunities. It was doing this through developing small and medium enterprises.

Resolving labour disputes

At the moment Myanmar was resolving labour disputes through 15 laws. Foreign Workers Law was drafted while a new Labour Organization Law was being redrawn. Occupational Safety and Health Law was enacted. On the centenary year of ILO, let us work toward the development of the workers affairs sectors.

By Yu Yu Naing