Sunday, 22 April 2012

The push and pull of Myanmar migrant workers

A recently reported Thai-Myanmar inter-governmental initiative seeks to recruit 200,000 Myanmar workers for work in Thailand. Regarding this initiative:
Proposals to safeguard workers rights include having contracts that could be revoked or ended after six months on mutual consent if Thai bosses abuse their Burmese workers physically, the employer dies or the business finishes, or the employer violates the Thai Lab our Law... “We hope that all undocumented workers from Myanmar in Thailand can become documented, so they can escape exploitation,” [Myanmar Deputy Minister for Labor] Myint Thein said... The deputy minister added that the Thai authorities would reduce the visa fee for Burmese migrants from 2,000 to 500 baht, and said that the Thais agreed to allow children and dependents of migrants to be issued with a new certificate of identity.
The Bangkok Port also quotes Mytint Thein as saying that "migrant labour conditions [in Thailand are] slowly improving," adding that "With industrial development still some years off in Myanmar, Nyapyidaw's concern at present is to ensure that migrant workers receive standard rights protection, because their remittances have helped shape the growing economy." However, the Bangkok Post reports that "Many Burmese migrant workers in Thailand likely to return to their homeland & families as economy in Burma improves after EU & US sanctions end." This article includes a number of other interesting tid-bits:
Minimum wages in Myanmar were increased this month, doubling from 1,500 baht to 3,000 baht a month to reflect the higher cost of living. This compares to about 5,100 baht in Vietnam and 2,700 baht in Cambodia, said the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI). The FTI estimates 3.5 million Myanmar migrant workers are living in Thailand, compared with a combined 200,000 from Cambodia and Laos. "We have started seeing some Myanmar workers returning home partly because Thai companies have relocated production to Myanmar. Several infrastructure projects are being developed there and they require a lot of workers," said FTI vice-chairman Tanit Sorat. Supachai Manusphaibool, managing director of MR&TS consultancy, said hundreds of Thai garment and footwear factories have already moved to areas near the Myanmar border, such as Myawaddy, to lower costs after the Thai minimum wage hike. There is also a demand for workers from jewellery factories in Myanmar, Mr Supachai added. Nonetheless, Mr Supachai and Mr Tanit ruled out an exodus of Myanmar workers from Thailand given the current difference in minimum wages. "The minimum wage in Myanmar is still one-fourth of Thailand's. I think it might be five years before we see a significant number of Myanmar workers leaving Thailand," said Mr Tanit. Some Myanmar migrant workers remain cautious about the economic outlook at home. "I have heard many people saying good things about the Myanmar economy over the next three years, but I find it hard to believe," said Sa Sa Su, who has worked in Thailand for eight years as a maid and now receives 300 baht a day. "I will be glad visiting home sometimes but not going back there permanently," said the 33-year-old.

No comments:

Post a Comment