A shuttle bus drops of workers at Charming Garment Manufacturing in Yangon's Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone.

Can the garment industry deliver decent jobs for workers in Myanmar?

This report asks whether, and how, Western garment brands can operate fairly in the fledgling democracy of Myanmar. The garment industry is one of the most labour-intensive manufacturing industries in the world. Clothing companies are constantly on the look-out for production locations that can make clothes more quickly and at lower costs. Over the past few years, Myanmar has rapidly become a popular sourcing destination for the garment industry – due to a huge pool of cheap labour and favourable trading conditions. However, conditions for workers in this industry are far from acceptable.

Labour rights abuses are rife. Land rights have been violated in the development of industrial zones. Workers who are brave enough sometimes file complaints or resort to open protests, news of which occasionally finds its way into the international media. More often, however, workers toil on in silence. This report describes the most pressing problems facing garment workers in Myanmar.

The authors – SOMO, ALR and LRDP – also offer suggestions for constructive ways forward to head off a crisis before it escalates. They highlight the importance of strict country-specific diligence procedures, including carrying out thorough risk assessments before operations are launched and orders are placed.

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