Scarcity of labor for Fisheries Business

02 December 2019

Recently a university student was rescued from rafting in the sea after one month of his missing and relentless search of his family members. He was working as a fisherman which he said was forced into and after he was rescued back by his family member, the news was one of the top trending topics on social media. There were also some reports saying that fisheries business committing human trafficking by forceful agreement as fishermen. Therefore, U Win Kyaing, General Secretary of Myanmar Fisheries Federation stated that the news escalation of the media about forceful labor in fisheries industry could give a bad image to fisheries industry in Myanmar which will result a big loss for fisheries business in Myanmar.

However, there are some twists and misunderstanding about all these reports of forceful labor and human trafficking in fisheries business according to some of the people who run this fishery business. Phyapon is one of the only townships in Myanmar where the locals mainly depend on fishery business and more than 60% of them depend upon fishery business for their livelihood. Therefore, this is the township where almost all the fishery related big businesses in Myanmar are based. Therefore, Phyapon Fisheries Association held a press conference on 30th November at Aung Naing Thu hotel in Phyapon and speaking at the press conference U Than Chaung the chairman of the association said, the incident which happened to a university student occurred due to labor shortage and illegal expanding of the fisheries business.  And he added, “Due to rapid expanding of the business, we are in need of more labor and the labor from local cannot meet that demand, this is why we try to reach out to other regions for recruitment. But the problem in recruiting labor is the “brokers” who are also known as “benefactors”. These brokers are the ones who sometimes use unwanted way for recruiting. Another problem in our fisheries business is, most of the people who get recruited are drug addicts, debtors, alcoholic, former prisoners and sometimes even former soldiers. These labors are not skilled labors and when unskilled person works in this fishing boat, it is really hard for them it will also take excessive time to finish up the work. Then the problem will arise among the labors which mostly results in brawling even to death.”

According to report these are around 12,000 labors working as fishermen and the number of death toll is quite huge every year. Last year about 200 fishermen were reportedly dead due to several reasons including health related issues, accidents and most commonly due to unsettled issues on the rafts. But according to U Shwe Paw, Administrator of Daw Nyein village, there is no such thing as forceful labors as reported in the recent news but there are certainly some issues such as misunderstanding among the workers which usually leads to a fight. At the same time, as it is mentioned earlier there certainly are the issues of unskilled workers, shortage of labor and uneducated workers and businesspersons which result in misusing of human resources and labor. U Shwe Paw said, “We had workshop on how to handle fishery related issues in the collaboration with international organizations and we already had an agreement to reform the policy about fishery business for better solution but implementation of the agreement has been delayed for long. So policy related issue is also the main reason why we have unwanted problem. The main responsible department in solving issue like is Department of Fisheries but this department is not able to solve the issue effectively.”

Once a raft leaves for fishing in the sea, it usually takes 6 to seven months. Therefore, the necessary provisions will be delivered twice in a month by their suppliers. And according to U Than Chaung, anything that goes against law will be punished according to the rules.