Wednesday, 25 April 2012

More on the push and pull of migrant workers

An Irrawaddy report provides a critical take on the recent Myanmar-Thai intergovernmental meeting on migrant labour and the plan to send 200,000 new Myanmar workers to Thailand:
"The Burmese government is negotiating to supply workers to help alleviate high unemployment at home while easing a labor shortage in its eastern neighbor... Some human rights and labor activist groups believe the deal being hatched between the Burmese and Thai labor ministries has more to do with the Bangkok government’s decision to increase the minimum wage for Thai workers than any real labor shortage. Bizarrely, it also comes as some Thai firms are considering moving their production to Burma to cut costs... The higher wage of 300 baht (US$9.75) a day came into force in Bangkok and some other areas on April 1, and on April 20 Thai Labor Minister Padermchai Sasomsap said it would be extended across the country by the end of this year. “There isn’t really a labor shortage in Thailand, but there is a shortage of people prepared to work for peanuts,” a human rights activist in Bangkok told The Irrawaddy this weekend. “In the present circumstances of continuing abuse of Burmese workers already in Thailand and a possible revival of Burma’s own economy, it’s hard to understand why the Burmese government would go along with this new mass cross-border labor agreement.”  Burma and Thailand still have to meet again in May to finalize their new cross-border labor plan. The Thai authorities have promised to increase documentation for migrant workers which will supposedly give them better legal status and prevent abuse.
A separate Irrawaddy article reiterates the expectation that a removal of economic sanctions on Myanmar will lead to a significant growth in garment sector jobs. Also, last year DVD ran an interesting article discussing whether and how an increase in Thailand's minimum wage would affect Myanmar migrants. 

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