Press Release

Children paying a high price for engaging in work in Myanmar

30 June 2023

  • Survey reveals poverty a main driver of child labour in Yangon Region, Ayeyarwady Region and Kayin State with dangerous work and long hours common.
Caption: Assessment of child labour in the Yangon Region, Ayeyarwady Region and Kayin State
Photo: © ILO/Khin Hnin Aye 2023

Yangon, Myanmar (ILO News) – A new report assessing the situation of working children in Myanmar shows the extent to which children are working to support their families and the high incidence of hazardous work they engage in.

More than 70 per cent of working children interviewed in an assessment by ILO Myanmar’s Asia Regional Child Labour Project (ARC) in the Yangon Region, Ayeyarwady Region and Kayin State were working primarily due to financial challenges in their households.

School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the political crisis had also driven children to work, further exacerbating child labour. Even after schools re-opened, many children did not return to school due to safety concerns resulting from the political instability in the country.

A third of children interviewed in the three areas were in domestic work with others primarily in agriculture, manufacturing, and wholesale and retail trade – many of whom were working long hours for low pay.  

The assessment also found that children were often performing hazardous work and dangerous tasks. Almost 90 per cent of children interviewed who were working in construction sector carried heavy loads and over 80 per cent worked long hours under the sun without a break. Many interviewed children reported that they experienced accidents and injuries, with minor injuries being the most frequent, followed by bruises, bumps and swelling.

“More than half of working children in this assessment said they wanted to have an education if given the chance, reflecting the extent to which work has interfered with their aspirations to go to school. This situation has only been made worse since COVID-19 and the nationwide conflicts caused by political crisis.,” said Donglin Li, Liaison Officer and Representative, ILO Myanmar.

Communities and employers in the three regions appeared largely unaware of the laws relating to the minimum age for employing children. Some employers, notably in the agriculture sector, indicated that they preferred to employ children because they can be easily controlled, paid less, and do not frequently complain. Others employed children who accompanied their parents to work due to safety concerns at home.

To effectively address child labour issues in Myanmar, the report provides recommendations for appropriate awareness raising, advocacy and overarching key policy interventions to be pursued, when the situation allows.

ILO’s ARC Project is a regional project implemented by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. The assessment   released to mark the World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June 2023 was prepared with financial support from Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the Government of the United Kingdom.

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Selim Benaissa

Chief Technical Advisor, ILO-Myanmar

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