Textile and Garment Industry of Importance for Socio-Economic Development

By Ti Kyi Maung

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Textile workers sewing on production line at a garment factory in Hlinethaya Industrial Zone in Yangon. Photo: Phoe Khwar

Myanmar’s political reforms which had been performed starting from 2011 can be said to be successful to some extent. It is of great importance to bolster with deep-rooted economy and stable communities to strengthen the political reforms accomplished until now. In other word, it needs to simultaneously carry out economic and social reforms together with political reforms. As for a nation with many fundamental necessities such as techniques, skills, capitals and etc., there are actually only a limited of works and industries for the socio-economic development for Myanmar.

High incomes for workers
Garment and textile industry is the one for the workforce in Myanmar to fetch high incomes, to get job opportunities as well as to fetch much foreign exchange for the country. It can create many job opportunities for workers who cannot finish the basic education, being a sector which can train occupational skills needed, in a short period of time.
Had it successfully been implemented, it would be a potential sector which would create jobs enough not only for those who had to work in neighboring countries such as Thailand and Malaysia but also for local citizens. Just by managing to bring about strengthened policies, reasonable wages and fringe benefits, and if necessary finding markets and starting capital for investment as for the government, it is a sector which can develop rapidly in a short period of time.
In the periods prior to the economic sanctions imposed in 2003 Myanmar Garment Industry was a comparatively developed one, employing over 300000 laborers. But, in a year just after the economic sanctions were imposed more than 100 factories were closed, rendering some 50000 workers jobless.
Starting from 2011 when democratic reforms commenced to be made in the country garment industries revived again. In Myanmar, Cut-Make-Pact [CMP] System has been being exercised. In future, it is said that Free on Board [FOB] System will be exercised. Amounts of exports from the textile industry from 2012 to 2015 increased from US $ 0.91 billion to 1.46 billion. According to the statistics released by the government exports values amounted to US $ 1.6 billion in the period of first 11 months of the year 2017.

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A woman works on her sewing machine at a garment factory in Hlinethaya Industrial Zone in Yangon. Photo: Phoe Khwar

1.5 Million jobs expected in 2020.
Myanmar garment entrepreneurs’ federation expected that in 2020 the industry could employ up to 1.5 million workers in 2020, likely to export US $ 8-10 billion. The major markets of Myanmar’s garment products are European Union countries. According to data of 2016 its expected value amounted up to US $ 950 million, 45 percent of the total garment export value, followed by Japan 31 percent and Korea 16 percent respectively.

Only in the vicinity of Yangon city
According to the survey made by international research teams most of the garment industries are situated in the surrounding area of Yangon city. Statistics released by the Myanmar Garment Entrepreneurs’ Federation show that more than 200 garment factories are located in Yangon area, employing migrant workers from local areas, of whom 94 percent are females from Ayeyarwady Region, Rakhine State, Bago Region an Magwe Region. Most of the workforce mainly works in sewing rather than cutting, packing and other jobs. The girls, mostly those under 25 could not finish their basic education, dropping out schools. Over 90 percent of laborers are working in foreigner-owned factories, it was learnt.
When assessed over the said findings, for the girls from various parts of the nation who cannot proceed to the higher education creation of jobs with respectable status, reasonable wages and freedom from too hard and dangerous situations can be regarded to be a necessity of great importance for social securities of the national populace.

US $ 160 billion of China’s Export of Garment
World Trade Organization WTO released that People’s Republic of China was the country which exported most of the global garment products according to the World Trade Statistical Review 2017, amounting to export value US $ 160 billion, 36.4 percent of the total, followed by EU 28 countries amounting to US 4 117 billion, 26.4 percent. As for the individual countries, Bangladesh stood second. In 2016 Bangladesh’s garment export reached 26 billion. In the regional countries Bangladesh was followed by Vietnam [US $ 25 billion], India [US $ 18 billion], Hong Kong [ US $ 16 billion], Indonesia [US $7 billion] and Cambodia [US $ 6 billion].
It is said that Vietnam’s surplus value from commerce in 2016 reached US $ 15 billion because of the increase in income from textile and garment industry. Generally, Vietnam used to export its garments to US, EU, Japan and South Korea but now it started to expand its market to PRC, Russia, Cambodia and other new markets. So, Vietnam’s textile and garment industry can be said to have developed greatly.

Creation of job opportunities
In 2016, the People’s Republic of China which exported most of the garment in the world managed to create a total of more than 4.5 million jobs in garment industries, with Bangladesh creating 4.8 million, India 15.6 million, Vietnam over 2.3 million and Indonesia over 3.4 million respectively in the same period. Myanmar followed them, employing over 692000 in garment factories, according to 2015 statistics.

Prospects on investment in the industry
Though PRC is leading all in the textile and garment industry in the world, it is expected that it was likely to decrease due to higher land rental rates and increasing labour charges. But its total trade value of the industry is extremely greater than other countries so it will lead on ahead of them. Similarly, with the increasing labour charges in Vietnam which is rapidly developing in the textile industry and insecure states of safety of garment factories in Bangladesh investors are becoming interested in Myanmar with lower labour charges and prospects to develop in the industry, it was learnt.
Whatever it is—eagerly or reluctantly to invest, it is incumbent upon our country to make arrangements of creating better environments such as emergence of strengthened policies, safety and security of factories, cooperation between employers and employees, designation of reasonable wages and other necessary matters for influx of foreign direct investment to come into the country for the sake of the State and socio-economic development of the people.

Translated by
Khin Maung Oo

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