Aiming to both bolster the economy and support the return of Myanmar citizens working abroad, the minister for labour announced plans to stimulate the country’s job market.

Speaking at the 9th ASEAN Forum on Migrant Labour last week, Minister for Labour, Immigration and Population U Thein Swe said that the government was in the process of implementing economic policies intended to encourage more Myanmar citizens to seek work within Myanmar rather than going abroad.

In his opening remarks, the minister said migrant workers are often undervalued by both the country they leave and the countries they find work in. He said that the government recognises the important social, economic and cultural contributions of both ingoing and outgoing migrants and was trying to improve their circumstances.

“The government is laying down plans as part of our economic policy to boost job opportunities for our citizens who are returning from working overseas,” U Thein Swe said.

According to the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, U Myo Aung, some measures are already under way.

“Currently, we are helping migrant workers to legally remit their money from overseas and to find a job on their return. We ask returning workers about their skills and sending their details to the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry to help them find a suitable job,” he said.

U Myo Aung said that the increase in migrant workers leaving Myanmar is explained by a lack of job opportunities and low salaries.

“There is driving force and attraction in this case. Driving force means that job opportunities in Myanmar are not good. Attraction means that the potential salaries in other countries are much higher and there is also great chance to enhance one’s skills. These two factors lead to more migrant workers,” he said.

At the ASEAN forum, the government also stated that they were doing all they could to ensure the safety and rights of Myanmar citizens working in foreign countries.

To minimise these risks U Myo Aung urged prospective migrant workers to find work overseas through approved channels and prepare for their time abroad by learning about the country and familiarising themselves with the details of emergency contacts.

U Moe Gyo, chair of the Joint Committee for Myanmar Citizens Affairs, reinforced the labour ministry’s appeal.

“I’d like to urge people to use official agencies if they want to work as migrant workers overseas. If they go officially, they can get help from workers organisations and embassy officials. If not, they might be at the risk of being a victim of human trafficking,” he said.

U Moe Gyo said that the government does not need to develop new policies to deal with migrant workers, but should simply implement the existing policy with more clarity, facilitating easier cooperation with other countries.

In 2015, more than 2.1 million migrant workers left ASEAN nations and travelled to other countries, according to U Yo Ye Mon Go Van, chief coordinator of the International Labour Organisation in Yangon. 52 percent of these were women.

On behalf of the ILO he urged all ASEAN nations to cooperate with each other to develop robust rules and regulations to protect migrant workers. He added that given the contributions made by migrant workers to a country’s economy, they should receive the full protection and benefit of labour rights and laws. By Swan Ye Htut, 24 October 2016

Translation by Khine Thazin Han and Thiri Min Htun


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the ASEAN Trade Union Council.