21 January 2021
The EU Myan Ku Fund is currently planning to extend the Myan Ku COVID-19 19 responsive project by February 2022, along with the contribution of 5 million euros as the second time for the workers in the garment industry. In this extension project, not only the emergency financial support but also educational and nutrition programs will be provided for garment and footwear industry workers from all over Myanmar who lost their jobs due to the crisis.
The project has started since April 2020 and they have already contributed 5 million euros for the garment workers. However, there is short-term mass unemployment of tens of thousands of workers due to the challenges the COVID-19 virus that has placed on the Myanmar garment and textile industry, especially provoking factory closures and downsizing.
Jacob Clere, Myanmar Country Representative from the organization of Sequa, implementing the EU Myan Ku for project, explained more about the project. “So there are lots of the activities related to training and educations come out of Myan Ku. One activity is trying to get the stipends to the workers to do vocational skill training. We managed to do that for one class before the second lockdown. But in the second lockdown, we have to shut down the programs temporarily and they have been shut down ever since. But in the extension of planning to skill that up, even though we have good one class, workers who have been lost their jobs will happy to get skill trainings and the certificates and the stipends. We think that can help them to reenter the workforce more successfully.”
The garment manufacturing industry in Myanmar is dominated by export-oriented factories, all operating under the cut-make-pack (CMP) system with the bulk of raw materials being imported. A number of factories also increase as there were only 154 factories in 2007 but it increasing to 720 factories from that figure in 2020. However, 114 factories are either totally closed or temporarily closed during this pandemic.
Daw Khine Khine Nwe, Secretary General of Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) also told about some difficulties the workers are facing. She said, “We are very happy to see that the workers outside get the jobs. But then there are some workers who have to commute from one region to another. Because of the COVID, they are not allowed to move one place to another. Because of that, the factories are closed down, and many workers lost their jobs including those from rural areas.”
There are over 500,000 workers under the garment industry and some workers have become unemployed due to many difficulties facing during this pandemic.
Dr Zaw Oo, an executive director of Centre for Economic and Social Development told about his perspective regarding with the topic. He said, “Workers now living in rural areas who got their employment terminated, in order for them to be able to get the job again without necessarily needing them to physically travel to the destinations and places. There might be needs for them to have this job options from where they are. So this is the particular area that we could work together to find out what will be the solutions for them in order to have this support.”
Myanmar is highly dependent on imports of raw materials. Among Myanmar’s garment exporters, large factories are either wholly foreign-owned or operating through joint venture (JV) agreements between local and foreign companies. Most of the exports are currently directed to Japan, EU countries, and China.
Soe Yadana and May Myat Noe