WHAT IT MEANS TO NOT WORK IN MYANMAR’S DRYZONE
Not so long ago, Myanmar was placed solidly in the pariah basket, and international corporations were banned from doing business. Now, from a capitalist mindset, Myanmar is a massive source of untapped resources and untapped, dirt cheap labour. One option for many women is to move to the cities and work in factories, responding to this new demand.
In just 3 years, garments boomed from a $770 million industry to a $1.5 billion one. Myanmar has the second lowest wages only after Bangladesh, which has seen pushback against exploitative labour since the Rana Plaza disaster (although we’d like to see a lot more). Myanmar, as the slightly more expensive option over the border, has no minimum wage, and a garment worker earns around $80 a month.
Industrialisation and urbanisation go hand in hand, and Yangon is creaking under the weight of this pressure. Housing in the city is poor quality, with average rental costs far beyond a single garment worker’s wage. The government has built industrial zones for workers to live in, but these fail to meet basic human rights and health and safety standards, are violent, and have contractual housing conditions likened to slavery. All in the name of the bottom line.