No change for Burmese workers
Moves towards democracy and a market economy in Burma have not yet benefitted the many young women who are still migrating to Mae Sot to find jobs. Talking to five young factory workers (of over 700 mainly women now trained under our Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB) partnership project) on their one day off a month made this clear.
Their stories illustrate the ongoing pressures of poverty and unemployment in Burma today. All five had crossed the border for the same reason: to save enough money to support families back home. May Myat No didn’t want to leave, but with nine family members and no work in her village, she is saving to send money home for her brothers’ education. Khin Myo Aye’s father is unwell and has no work. Khin Lay Nwe is the oldest of four siblings and is providing for her younger brother’s education. Aye Sandar Myint is here because her family’s rice paddies have been destroyed by floods and insect infestation. She is only 18 years old.
All agreed that they would head home when they could get jobs at the same rates of pay as their current work (about $NZ200 per month). If the removal of sanctions by Europe and the United States brings bigger and better markets for clothing produced in Burma, then hopefully this will create jobs closer to home for these young women.
When asked what their biggest problem was in Mae Sot, they said ‘the police’. As illegal migrants they are at risk of being arrested and sent home. This vulnerability is frequently exploited and leaving a job can result in the employer threatening to inform police, as Khin Myo Aye found when she wanted to change jobs. To prevent this happening, she had to pay her employer a sum of money.