Tue 19 Mar 2013
Filed under: Business / Trade,Inside Burma,International,News,Parliament
A law to govern foreign labour is now being drafted because Myanmar has no clear policies to manage foreign workers, said Myo Aung, chief director of Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security.
“We are beginning to draft a law for foreign labour in order to impose a proper policy on foreign labour. It is difficult to control them since the conditions in their countries and Myanmar are different,” Mao Aung said, explaining that foreigners working in Myanmar are doing so with the permission of the Myanmar Investment Commission.
Officially, their numbers are in the thousands, according to the ministry.
An academic who has studied working conditions at the Shwe Gas Pipeline Project said that although he supported a new law for foreign workers, protection of domestic workers needed to be beefed up.
“The new local labour law has weaknesses that cause problems between employers and employees, which lead to workers’ strikes,” he said.
“Economic zones are required to hire at least 25 percent local workers but the law is not practiced. These stipulations need to be checked thoroughly. Even though Myanmar has an insufficient number of skilled workers, it is not proper that basic tasks, such as driving, are given to Chinese,” he added.
He also said that foreign workers were being employed for jobs that Myanmar workers could do, and that they were receiving better compensation and perks than their local counterparts.
“In the Shwe Gas pipeline project, Chinese workers are given five-star hotel rooms while the local Myanmar workers have to stay in huts without electricity. When asked why this was allowed, a project manager replied ‘Myanmar workers are more adaptable to nature’. What’s more, there is also a huge wage gap between local and foreign workers. The ministry needs to ensure that local workers receive proper rights and opportunities,” he said.
Aung Myat Kyaw, a geotechnical engineer, said that the best way to overcome the skills deficit in Myanmar was job training. “I have often heard criticism that Myanmar workers lack skills. However, if they are given job training, they can manage their work without any difficulties,” he said.
“When I was in Vietnam, I learnt that most of the projects employed more local workers than foreigners. In our country, too, except for project management positions, posts should be available to local workers. Another point is that basic jobs, such as drivers, cooks and the like should be given to local workers. As far as I see now, all of the posts in the projects are taken by foreigners,” he said.