Myanmar approves first minimum wage

Myanmar approves first minimum wage

Labourers work on scaffolding at a building construction site in Yangon. (AFP Photo)
Labourers work on scaffolding at a building construction site in Yangon. (AFP Photo)

YANGON — The government of Myanmar has approved the country's first national minimum wage after months of negotiations with labour groups and employers.

The wage has been set at 3,600 kyat (100 baht) "for a standard eight-hour work day" and will take effect from Tuesday, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported on Saturday.

It will apply to workers "across all sectors and industries" but small businesses employing fewer than 15 people would be excluded, it added.

Myanmar has seen a wave of protests for better pay and conditions, particularly among workers in the growing garment sector, since a quasi-civilian government took office in 2011.

The decision on the wage, announced by the National Minimum Wage Committee on Friday, follows several rounds of talks between the government, labour groups, employers and workers since a law approving its introduction was passed in 2013.

It is one of many political and economic reforms introduced under the government in response to rising interest among foreign investorsto move into the country where most international sanctions have now been dropped.

But even the low sum agreed on had been vehemently opposed by some employers who claim that worker productivity in Myanmar was low and they could not afford to pay more.

Pressure to adopt a fair minimum wage has also come from outside with a number of Western manufacturers arguing that poor pay was counterproductive.

Workers previously had been demanding a minimum of 4,000 kyat (115 baht) a day. Protests over wages outside factories in recent months had resulted in several labourers arrested in the ensuing police crackdowns.

In neighbouring Thailand, where an estimated 2 million Myanmar nationals form part of a vast migrant labour force, the national minimum wage is 300 baht per day.

But rights groups say Myanmar migrants are often paid less than this amount, working in poor conditions and subject to exploitation.

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