- By Khin Yadana, Photos: May Oo Moe
Economic development plays a vital role in the progress of the State, and producing labour resources can boost a country’s economy. A roundtable business talk was held at MRTV in Nay Pyi Taw on August 21. Following are discussions by U Myo Aung, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, U Zaw Aye Maung, Yangon Regional Minister for Rakhine Ethnic Affairs, and U Tun Tun from the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Q: Talking about labour resources, we should also discuss the role of child labour. Could you elaborate on what measures are being taken to tackle this issue?
Permanent Secretary U Myo Aung: Regarding child labour, we can consider this problem as a challenge as well as an opportunity for us. Child labour is still a major issue in many countries. At present, due to climate change, people are facing major agricultural problems, resulting in negative consequences, especially in the agricultural sector. Also, due to growing number of conflicts, people migrate from their original places, looking for better living conditions. When thy move to other places, parents are often accompanied with their children.
It will be seen that these children find it hard to pursue their studies, and soon, they are helping out their parents. Many countries in the region face similar issues, and it is necessary to know the complexities of child labour. There are some children who work, because they are allowed to do so.
In Myanmar, with some restrictions, children aged 14 to 18 are permitted to work. For instance, with the recommendation of a doctor, they are permitted to work four hours a day. No child shall be required to work in hazardous conditions. Child labour means making children under 14 work and in hazardous conditions. We still have child labour in our country for various reasons. According to ILO Convention 182, calls have been made on the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, as a matter of urgency. Authorities concerned have made arrangements to tackle child labour problems. Likewise, the Vice President 1 heads a national-level committee to eradicate child labour.
Eradication of child labour
In doing so, the main thing is that we should first know what types of labour are harmful to children. We are trying to designate these types, especially in the agricultural and construction sectors. In short, it is of vital importance to combat child labour and create a brighter future for them, through cooperation among the Government, the NGOs and employers.
Q: The Government is striving to boost productivity at factories amidst an environment of peace and tranquility. Could you discuss what sectors should be encouraged to make progress?
Regional Minister U Zaw Aye Maung: In order to become a developed nation, work force plays a critical role in increasing productivity. Workers must be happy in their workplace, resulting in an increase in production. Moreover, employers should create a better work environment for their employees. In order to be successful, it is needed to reduce logistic expenses, including expenditures on transportation, energy, infrastructure, etc. When investors work with the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC), they are allowed to import some products duty-free, such as sewing machines, generators, trucks, and so on. The MIC has prescribed that some local and foreign investment business categories be exempted or given relief from commercial tax and custom duties. If investors do their business outside of Yangon, where there is an urgent need, they can receive tax exemptions of up to five years. If they make investments in some townships, such as Hlinethaya, Shwepyitha, or Mingaladon Industrial Zone, they can get tax relief up to three years.
Improving one’s skill through practice
Efficiency is a core factor in ensuring productivity. Employees must put out their best during the eight-hour work day to increase production.
Employers also need to conduct technical training
courses that can enhance their staff performance. Employers need to allow workers to
attend training courses, while employees should put their heart and soul in learning new techniques. Creating a sound and efficient work environment, together with good management and strong employer-employee relations can definitely bring success to a business.
Thanks to changes, employees are now also entitled to medical treatment and cash benefits for occupational injuries and illnesses. Medical treatment, social security that includes insurance schemes would give them easy access to healthcare services.
Q: What would be the biggest productivity challenges?
U Tun Tun: The reason we want to improve productivity is because every enterprise should survive by gaining profits out of their businesses.
By easing restrictions on foreign direct investments so as to attract big businesses, authorities concerned have made efforts in supplying skilled employees to prospective manufacturing industries that would create job opportunities in the country. Moreover, efforts should be made to take a pragmatic approach in producing more skilled workers in Myanmar, so that they can meet the changing requirements of the labour market in competing with regional countries.
To upgrade the skills of workers, it is important to open technical and vocational schools around the country. The government is also striving to produce ASEAN-level skilled workers. As for employers, they have an option of sending their staff to training centres for internationally-recognized skills standard certificates, as these employees will need to prove their skills to foreign and local investors.
Win Ko Ko Aung