ACTE - Sewing Woman | © Helvetas / Katrin Rosenberg
Myanmar

For safe Migration and better Working Conditions

© Helvetas / Katrin Rosenberg
  • Project Name
    Aye Chan Thaw Ein - Empowering Labour Migrants in Shwe Pyi Thar
  • Project Phase
    2019 to 2022
  • Funding
    Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT)
  • Thematic focus
    Migration
    Skills Development and Education

Migration has long become a livelihood strategy for many households in Myanmar in order to respond to shocks, for risk diversification of volatile household income or upward social mobility. Labor migration is, however, often not a choice but an economic or social compulsion and people who are migrating face a lot of difficulties. Helvetas empowers migrants to step out of this vicious circle and to migrate safely in future.

According to the 2014 Census, around 20% of the Myanmar population are considered internal migrants, out of which 70% are aged under 35 years. Often, an internal migrant becomes an international one, aiming for higher incomes outside of the country. The reasons people migrate are complex and range from limited rural livelihoods, better economic opportunities, persistent civil conflicts, social networks and personal aspirations. It is mostly not one driver only, but a combination out of many.

Migrant workers, of whom particularly in the garment sector most are women, face a myriad of challenges around the migration cycle. At the decision-making and pre-departure stage, access to objective and accurate information is the key challenge. In the area of destination, the lack of information on labor rights, including legal requirement to receive a contract, and contractual rights and obligations, continues. Labor law violations are widespread and relate mainly to minimum wage, overtime, accidents and lacking compensation payments, unlawful dismissal or harassment. Further, women are more likely to live in employer-provided housing, a fact that increases the risks of abuse and contributes to additional exploitation and dependence on the employer. Victims of labor rights violations hardly claim their rights as they are either not aware about the grievance mechanisms in place or reluctant to report abuse.

In addition, skills levels of newly arrived migrants are often minimal. When entering the labor market, usually no further particular skills training is provided, but a lower salary is paid until the newcomer reaches the required productivity levels. This puts an enormous burden on the migrants who need to cover their own expenses and are expected to send remittances back home. While – often – for the first time receiving a fixed monthly income is empowering for young migrants, its sustainable management also poses a key challenge. Being able to save is rare, and due to this, garment factory workers suffer from sub-optimal nutrition and food security. On top, migration can lead to increased tensions between new arrivals and their host communities.

To address these many and interrelated problems, the consortium of People in Need (PIN), Helvetas Myanmar, and four local organisations, namely Myanmar Private TVET Association (MPTA), Solidarity Trade Union Myanmar (STUM), Action Labour Rights (ALR) and KoeKoeTech contribute with their expertise and experience to reducing the vulnerabilities of internal migrants to labor exploitation and poor health and nutritional outcomes.

Logo | © Helvetas
The logo of this project shows a garment worker girl, a mother with her child and a labor man. The roof gives them shelter, and the shape of a pair of hands represents help for the different kinds of life challenges. © Helvetas
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ACTE - Factory from above | © Helvetas / Katrin Rosenberg
This project aims to contribute to better conditions for migrants and their families. © Helvetas / Katrin Rosenberg
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ACTE - Lunchboxes | © Helvetas / Katrin Rosenberg
One of the goals is improved nutrition, as migrants and their families often do not have the opportunity to cook healthy and nutritious food. © Helvetas / Katrin Rosenberg
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The interventions cover

1) Improved access to information on safe migration,

2) Improved working conditions and income through skills development for migrants, and

3) Improved nutrition of migrants and their families.

The project 'Aye Chan Thaw Ein' (ACTE) stands for 'Peaceful House'. It takes place in Yangon’s sub-urban township Shwe Pyi Thar, one of the most important areas of destination for internal migration and an area with a high prevalence of garment factories and food processing companies. The project’s overall goal is to maximize the positive impacts of migration on development and to contribute to reduced vulnerability and to empowerment of female and male migrants and their families in Shwe Pyi Thar Township.

The project aims to ensure triple wins for the

(1) migrants themselves,

(2) the area of their destination including the employers, and

(3) the host communities, and the area of their origin including families and communities.

To achieve this overall goal, the project also aims to strengthen existing systems. Workers’ Centres are established to serve as a key contact points for the migrants to access safe migration information, receive free legal assistance, vocational and soft skills training, career counselling as well as support for improved nutrition and hygiene practices, in particular for women and caretakers of children under two years. Strengthened Civil Society Organizations and Trade Unions multiply these interventions by enhancing the outreach of the Workers’ Centres to the communities. Prospective migrants in the areas of origin have access to safe migration information disseminated through digital tools.

Furthermore, the project also provides information on global standards both in the garment and food processing sectors and offers learning and exchange opportunities for entrepreneurs. Enhancing coordination between different levels and stakeholders is essential to improve the framework for decent work at community level. That is why Helvetas and its partners are also committed to the rights of migrants in the context of policy dialogue.

The project plans to reach 25,000 direct beneficiaries, of which at least 60% will be women. Indirect beneficiaries include the families of the migrant workers in both the areas of origin and destination.

Migration and Development

Helvetas neither encourages nor discourages people from migration. We recognize migration as a viable livelihood strategy.

Advocacy

Real change requires open dialog between policymakers and society. So Helvetas promotes exchange between decision-makers and those affected by their decisions.