Child Labor in Myanmar

Child labor in Myanmar continues to be a concern for one of the poorest nations in Asia. It is estimated that 1.13 million children, ages 5 through 17 work as laborers in Myanmar. This amounts to 9.3 percent of the child population. Said conditions are a violation of human rights and deprivation of well being.

Impact of Poverty

The prime factor of involvement of children in the workforce is poverty. With more than 32 percent of the nation living below the national poverty line, children work to supplement low household incomes.

However, employers exploit children and pay extremely low rates. In some cases, children as young as 14, working in garment-producing factories, make as little as 17  cents per hour; Yet, the nation’s minimum wage is $3.60.

Government Involvement in Child Trafficking

In August 2017, it was estimated 690,000 people fled from Myanmar due to acts of violence caused by the Myanmar government. Of those, nearly 400,000 were children.

In Myanmar, there is an abundance of trafficking, with little to no intervention. Frequently, the displacement of young girls to China is due to trafficking, for work, or marriage to Chinese men as child brides.

Additionally, Myanmar also has the highest number of child soldiers globally. In these cases, young boys against their will have to comply with captor commands. These commands are in sync with militarization goals and tactics.

Impact of Child Labor

One prominent consequence of child labor in Myanmar is the lack of education among children. One in five children drops out of school in order to work. In Myanmar culture, it is socially acceptable and common to see children working, rather than in school. Also, children who are in the workforce usually have little awareness, nor education about their safety and health rights in the workplace, leading to a high risk of fatal injuries.

The agricultural industry employs 60.5 percent of children in the workforce. Construction and fellow small-scale industries also have a significant role in employing child laborers. Just over half of these children perform potentially hazardous work that is likely to harm their physical or psychological health. Children as young as 15 to 17 make up 74.6 percent of the child workforce exposed to hazardous jobs.

The Intervention of Child Trafficking in Myanmar

Although child labor in Myanmar is widespread, the government of Myanmar is addressing this issue with the support of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The Myanmar Program on the Elimination of Child Labor Project was a four-year program (2013-2017) funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, overseen by the ILO. The goals of this project were to increase awareness of children in the workforce while improving the legal and institutional laws concerning child labor.

The Myanmar government ratified the ILO Convention No.182 which prohibits the worst forms of childhood labor and is in the process of finalizing the country’s first National Action Plan. This proposal outlines ways to reduce child labor in Myanmar while improving the lives of the children all together.

Child labor in Myanmar is a prominent issue as it affects millions of lives. There is, however, a reason to be optimistic, as the Myanmar government and fellow organizations have begun prevention protocols, ensuring a better future for the children of Myanmar.

– Marissa Pekular


Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Myanmar
Myanmar is the second largest country in Southeast Asia but has one of the least developed economies in the world. Food security in the country is threatened by natural disasters, isolationist policies, conflicts and ethnic violence. Millions of people are living below the poverty line. It is important to know the top 10 facts about hunger in Myanmar to help illustrate food insecurity conditions in the country.

What are the Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Myanmar?

  1. Approximately 25.6 percent of the 53 million people living in Myanmar (formerly Burma) is below the poverty line. According to the World Food Program U.S.A. (WFP), around 298,700 people don’t have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food and are in need of food assistance. Women, people with disabilities, the elderly and minorities are the most affected.
  2. The Human Development Index (HDI) measures basic human developments, taking into account variables such as life expectancy, years of schooling and income. According to the index, Myanmar ranks at 148 out of 189 countries. The majority of the country’s population, almost 70 percent, live in rural areas where poverty is two times as high and food insecurity conditions are much worse than urban areas. Statistics from the World Bank in 2015 show that 6.4 percent live with $1.90 a day.
  3. Children are more prone to illness and infections when their growth and development are hindered due to a poor diet. In Myanmar, 29.4 percent of children under five have stunted development. According to statistics from 2016, 18.9 percent of children are underweight.
  4. The infant mortality rate in Myanmar is high because of malnutrition: for every 1,000 live births, there are 35.8 deaths. According to 2012 statistics from UNICEF, the child mortality rate was 52 for children under five. For a child’s development, it is crucial to receive adequate nutrition in the first weeks and years of their life. Malnutrition and stunting in infants can reduce if mothers breastfeed their children for the recommended six months. Save the Children is an organization that aims to provide nutrition information and encourages mothers to breastfeed their babies. Their nutrition programme works to ensure that families have access to, and can afford, nutritious food.
  5. The average rate of enrollment in primary school is close to 88 percent. 75 percent of those children make it to fifth grade. However, about half of those students finish school; the net completion rate is 54 percent. Poor families in rural communities cannot afford to send their children to school or provide enough food for them. These children eventually discontinue their education and start working. The WFP aims to keep children in school by providing school lunches.
  6. Myanmar is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and is one of the top 10 countries most affected by climate risk. Extreme climatic conditions such as irregular or heavy rainfall threaten its agriculture which contributes 30 percent of the national GDP. As many as 85 percent of the households in Kayah, a state in eastern Myanmar, frequently experience food shortages due to environmental challenges.
  7. Myanmar heavily relies on agriculture and faces many challenges. The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program aims to fight poverty, malnutrition and hunger by implementing agricultural sustainable development programs. The Climate-Friendly Agribusiness Value Chain Sector Project in the Central Dry Zone (CDZ) of Myanmar plans to implement $27 million to decrease food insecurity for the rural poor. The projected impact of the project targets 100,000 people, in eight townships across the CDZ,  half of whom are women.
  8. Floods, food insecurity, armed conflicts and inter-community violence create waves of displacement. In fact, more than one million people in Myanmar have been displaced since June 2011. According to Action Against Hunger, there are around 863,000 people who need humanitarian aid in Myanmar, 241,000 of which are displaced. Being forced to flee their homes also means these families leave behind their livelihoods. Refugees and internally displaced people are left with no means of securing meals for themselves.
  9. Tuberculosis and HIV patients have higher nutritional needs during their treatment periods, and Myanmar has one of the highest number of patients. TB rates are among the highest in Asia, and Myanmar is among the 20 high TB burdened countries. It is also one of the 35 countries that has 90 percent of new HIV infections in the world. The WFP offers food assistance to 17,000 patients to ensure treatment adherence and success.
  10. Food security and malnutrition are accompanied by issues such as the lack of access to water and sanitation. According to an estimation from 2015 by the CIA World Factbook, 19.4 percent of the population didn’t have access to improved drinking water sources such as piped water, protected wells or springs. In 2017, Action Against Hunger’s nutrition and health programs reached 31,233 people. 9,344 people benefitted from water, sanitation and hygiene programs while 9,837 people utilized food security and livelihoods programs. The organization’s operation in the country started in 1994 and in 2017, it helped a total of 50,414 people.

These top 10 facts about poverty in Myanmar may paint a grim picture but the country has developed in many ways from 1990 to 2017. It reached the Millennium Development Goal of reducing hunger by half in 2015 and its HDI value has increased by 61.5 percent,i.e. from 0.358 to 0.578. Life expectancy has increased by 8 years and the mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling increased by 2.5 years and 3.9 years respectively.

Many organizations that work on alleviating poverty and ending hunger help thousands of people each year. However, the above top 10 facts about hunger in Myanmar show that there is still a lot of work to be done.

– Aleksandra Sirakova
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Myanmar
Myanmar, a small Southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma, is one of the three poorest countries in Asia. In the text below, top 10 facts about poverty in Myanmar are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Myanmar

  1. More than 32 percent of the Myanmar population live below the poverty line, according to a study conducted by the World Bank. In 2010, the national poverty line was measured at 19.4 percent. Compared to its neighbor, Cambodia, whose rates stand at 14.0 percent, there is still a long way to go towards the goal of eradicating large-scale poverty in Myanmar.
  2. Between 66 and 70 percent of the Myanmar population live in rural areas and depends heavily on low-tech fishing and farming largely for subsistence. This exacerbates the gap between the urban and the rural, with the U.N. stating that rural poverty is twice as high as in urban areas. The government mostly invests in extractive industries such as gas, oil and hydroelectric power rather than focusing on agricultural needs.
  3. Within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, Myanmar had the lowest adult life expectancy at 66.04 years in 2015, according to the data that the World Health Organization (WHO) published. The breakdown between males to females show that women have a slightly better average life expectancy rate at 69 years compared to 65 years for men.
  4. Myanmar also has the second highest child mortality rate in the region, since 6.2 out of 100 children die before they turn one year and more than 7 percent die before they reach their fifth birthday. In 2014, the government spent only 3 percent of its GDP on health. In comparison, 13 percent of GDP was spent on defense.
  5. Many people in the country, particularly in rural areas, do not have access to basic infrastructure and services. Two-thirds of the population do not have electricity and there is a low road density at 219.8 kilometers per 1000 square kilometers. Poverty in Myanmar cannot be eliminated if a large portion of the population has no access to rudimentary technology that can be used to conduct transactions and access transport.
  6. Myanmar’s attempts to control the AIDS epidemic among the working population have largely been successful. The figures currently stand at less than 1 percent infected, according to the United Nations. On May 17, 2017, The Ministry of Health and Sports launched its latest five year HIV plan, called “90-90-90.” It has a goal that 90 percent of HIV positive people know their status, 90 percent of those aware of their status receive treatment and 90 percent of those living with HIV have suppressed viral loads.
  7. With the World Bank’s National Electrification Project, around 1.2 million people who live in rural areas have either new or better access to electricity. This affects 140,000 households and introduces community-based solar electricity systems to combat poverty in Myanmar.
  8. Tuberculosis (TB) incidence has decreased dramatically since 1995 and the goal of reducing TB mortality rates below 50 percent set in 1990 was achieved by 2010. The death rate from TB fell by more than 40 percent between 1990 and 2011.
  9. Poverty in Myanmar has been on the decline, decreasing from 44.5 percent in 2004 to 26.1 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank. Rural and urban poverty have both been decreasing, although at a faster rate for the urban dwellers. Consumer purchases of motorcycles, indicating greater disposable income, has increased to over 42 percent of households in 2015, from 10 percent in 2009.
  10. The government has made plans to spend more on education, and under the National Sector Education Plan, spending increased from $251.8 million in 2013 to $1.2 billion in 2o17. The government has also planned to use a 5 percent tax on mobile phones for education, which will allow the government to hire a larger number of teachers and improve access to free education.

In conclusion, although Myanmar has made significant strides in the process of eradicating poverty, it still has a long way to go before achieving parity with other developed and even developing nations in the region.

– Maneesha Khalae
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Myanmar
How does one remain faithful in the face of death? This is the question many Rohingya Muslims are currently faced with, both in Myanmar and in the refugee camps in surrounding countries to which they have scattered in the past two years. They are trying to survive amid governmental strife, warfare, abuse and trafficking since an acceleration of cultural oppression and threats that started in 2011.

Government military campaigns in Myanmar have caused more than 700,000 individuals to flee to refugee camps in search of safety and stability. While searching for safety and aid, women and children have reported gang rape and murders by military officials, and even exploitation in the countries they reached hoping to find help. Another 100,000 refugees fled the country to escape the inevitable harm of monsoon season. Even as they travel to receive aid, it is possible that they will at least be injured.

However, featuring this kind of information exclusively in news headlines is how the media misrepresents Myanmar. Citizens of Myanmar are actually living resilient and fulfilling lives with support and aid from humanitarian efforts. They are able to focus their energy on a bright future ahead.

Programs Helping Myanmar Youths and Families

In 2012, with the help of UNICEF, Myanmar began the “Seven Things This Year Initiative,” a project working with mothers and children to promote “key family health practices.” The project encouraged proper planning for each family. As of 2016, this project is being evaluated for sustainability; however, it has already benefited many displaced refugees and expectant mothers.

In 2018, training programs are providing opportunities for successful integration into communities by offering education and vocational training through apps. Residents participating in training can gain skills in business training, basic budgeting, English fundamentals and nutrition safety.

Only focusing on just one part of the population is also how the media misrepresents Myanmar. For example, another population misrepresented or underrepresented by media in Myanmar is the youth within the community. Resiliency training and practice is a priority focus for youth in the education system.

The Myanmar Red Cross Society has more than 44,000 volunteers, 1,300 of whom are active youth members. They assist with planning and participation in programming initiatives which promote safe learning facilities, proper healthcare, water and sanitation intervention, disaster management, school safety plans and exercises, risk reduction and resilience education. By doing this, Myanmar youth are encouraging engagement in the community and empowering future leadership within the country.

The Media Represents Myanmar by Not Reporting on Its Largest City

Focusing on the southern portions of the country, where most of the Rohingya crisis is located, is also how the media misrepresents Myanmar. While that crisis is highly relevant and impacting more than just the southern region, Yangon, which is highly populated and located in the northern part of the country, is currently thriving compared to years past, with a low percentage of poverty (16 percent) and positive record of births, sanitation and adequate nutrition.

Between 2018 and 2022, Myanmar is focusing on citizen’s health and nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, education, child protection, social policy and the monitoring of child rights. This focus will allow for proper access to healthcare, improved quality of life, the promotion of a safe, inclusive, and non-violent community, poverty reduction, recovery from violence and exploitation and establish welfare.

While in the midst of transition throughout the country, resilient Myanmar residents are seeking and finding opportunities that are empowering. Resiliency partnered with wisdom and discernment in their use of technology will light their path and empower their strength.

– Ashley Cooper
Photo: Flickr

International Development AssociationRepresentatives from over 50 countries met in Myanmar to discuss future steps on how the International Development Association could help people living in extreme poverty.

The International Development Association, or IDA, is the lending branch of the World Bank. They provide aid to the poorest countries in the world by offering low-interest loans, grants and advice to the places that need it.

Donors in Myanmar met specifically to discuss how to most efficiently use their money to best help the countries that need it by replenishing the IDA.

According to the World Bank, the plan is to “leverage IDA’s equity by blending donor contributions with funds raised through debt markets, in order to provide clients with billions of dollars in additional resources.”

At the moment, the IDA is focused on four specific issues—climate change, fragile and conflict-affected countries, gender equality and inclusive growth—although they address other matters as well. All these issues combine to hinder growth and economic development in some of the world’s poorest communities.

The International Development Association’s desire to reduce these inequalities align very well with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to tackle similar issues by the year 2030, lending credence to the IDA’s plans.

All told, the IDA hopes to help build successful governments that will nurture citizens by catering to their basic needs and beyond.

Started in 1960, the IDA has provided $312 billion in financing to the countries that needed it most. In Chad, 2.6 million books were sent to schools, and over 400 classrooms were built and equipped, allowing 20,000 people to learn how to read and write.

Poverty in Ethiopia fell from 44 percent to 29.6 percent in 11 years thanks to agricultural growth projects and spending on basic services, both partially funded by the IDA.

In Nepal, 6 million women in 2015 received prenatal care, versus 2.6 million just five years prior.

Finally, in Myanmar—the site of the current meeting—850,000 people benefited from infrastructure and service projects meant to improve schools and roads.

The International Development Association promises to continue to help developing countries make strides towards a better future. The next IDA replenishment meeting takes place from October 7-9, 2016 in Washington D.C.

Sabrina Santos

Photo: World Bank