Myanmar has a long way to go for its garment industry to be sustainable. Factory workers, most of whom are women, bear the brunt of an extremely competitive global market in which labor standards remain below internationally recognised human rights and labor standards.
About 95 per cent of workers are on the job six days a week while 88 per cent work 10 or more hours a day. Most face disproportionate wage deductions for taking days off. Trade unions exist in just a third of the factories while just eight per cent of the workers are members of a trade union. Even after the introduction of the minimum wage policy, two thirds of workers say working conditions have become harsher both in terms of expected worker output and strict regulations.
It’s clear that further systemic changes are needed for a more sustainable fashion future. In this context brands like H&M are taking the lead in bringing all the relevant actors together to get closer to making functional industrial relations and collective bargaining a reality in the fashion supply chain.
However the garment industry in Myanmar, while still small compared to major producers such as China and Bangladesh, is growing exponentially, as more and more buyers source from the over 350 factories in its industrial zones.