- Kyaw Win (Labour)
Reactive Labour Policy is policy developed in response to a problem, or emergency. Proactive Labour Policy is designed to prevent a problem, or emergency from occurring. That was, in a nutshell, the understanding of the nature of labour policies at the International Course on Labour and Social Policy attended by the writer in 1977 in the International Labour Organization building in Geneva, Switzerland. In fact, it may be said that the concepts are valid, not only for labour policies but for all policies. Proactive policies may be explicit or embedded in the relevant laws. Below is a presentation of the concept of proactive policies in relation to present happenings in Myanmar.
In times of economic development, especially in developing countries, there is always internal migrations of labour as job opportunities as well as better wages become available in the manufacturing and service industries that develop around major urban regions. This is only natural as every person seeks to better his or her life and the lives of their families. However a heavy influx of people into the major urban areas, if not properly managed, can lead to rapid increases in population of the urban areas and cause disruptions as to housing, transportation, sanitation and also create unemployment problems. All this may pose problems for the urban authorities and be a source of concern to the regular residents.
Under the 2008 Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, “Every citizen shall have the right to settle and reside in any place within the Republic of the Union of Myanmar according to law”. Any person wanting to move to and settle whether permanently or temporarily should abide by the laws relating to such residency, whether for work or doing business or for other reasons. According to recent news, 80% of Yangon Region population growth during the last five years was due to internal migration from the districts, smaller towns and villages.
Migrating to a fast developing urban area without thinking of where to work and live, and squatting on any piece of vacant land any where in the said urban area is illegal. Inevitably, there will arise problems of water and sanitation that impact unfavorably on public health. If such migrants are a source of labour to the employers, then the employers, whether collectively or on their own, should arrange affordable accommodation for them. Perhaps the housing development plan under the new Social Security Law to which the employers and employees contribute could, in the future, make available housing for workers close to the Industrial Zones. That would solve some of the workers’ accommodation and transportation problems.
As has been the stipulation under the existing labour law concerned, all job seekers are to register themselves at the free labour exchanges of the Department of Labour. In turn, as is prescribed under the same labour law, every employer covered by the law should only hire workers who are registered as job seekers at the labour exchanges. This ‘proactive policy’ embedded in the law should perhaps be more effectively enforced for systematic placement of job seekers.
Similar situation is seen regarding external labour migration to other countries. From recent news, it seems that about 4.25 million people born in Myanmar have emigrated, many perhaps permanently. Bulk of the labour migration is from the ‘rural areas’ of the various States and Regions. From the human resources point of view, if external migration (emigration) is not managed properly, it will negatively impact on Myanmar’s workforce. Sooner or later there will be shortage of workers to work the fields, or engage in agro and fishery occupations. Thus far it seems that there are many illegal “Overseas Employment Agencies” engaged in sending workers abroad.
Management of labour migration is embedded in the Overseas Employment Law of 1999. It is designed to license “Overseas Employment Service Agencies” and regulate them to effectively manage overseas employment. But many of these “Agencies” seem not to abide by the rules and procedures for recruiting and sending the workers , so that there are far more ‘undocumented’ Myanmar workers working abroad than there are those legally sent by the law abiding agencies. The law should be more effectively implemented to apprehend and penalize the “illegal” senders of Myanmar workers for overseas employment.
Regarding workers sent on a Government to Government basis, perhaps there should be one single organization such as an “ Overseas Employment Corporation” responsible for undertaking all G to G overseas employment of Myanmar workers. This is the practice in most labour sending countries and it will result in better management of G to G overseas workers sending process. Also the “fee” charged by the Corporation for services rendered could be regulated and ‘family remittances’ of the workers through formal banking channels could be better managed as well.
As for child labour, which is being much discussed nowadays, there are ‘proactive policies’ embedded in the relevant laws relating to the Child and child labour that have been in force for many years. Much of ‘child labour’ emanates from the poorer families in the rural areas. There is the general ‘belief’ that the employers are ‘helping’ with the economic difficulties of the parents/guardians of the children. In fact no employer or parent or guardian for whatever reasons, may deprive a child of it’s right to education. That’s the reason why the laws relating to the Child and child labour were enacted in the first place. Now that primary basic education is free and compulsory, it’s the duty of the parents/guardians and the concerned authorities to see that children of school age receive at least primary basic education for their better future.