Labour migration in Myanmar

The people of Myanmar have long used migration as a survival strategy, for safe refuge and for livelihood. Those who have migrated not only support themselves but also try to remit enough money to allow their families and communities to manage. 

International Migration

According to the latest Myanmar Population Census of 2014, more than two million Myanmar citizens migrated abroad. 70.2% of all migrants were in Thailand, and a smaller number was working in Malaysia, China and Singapore. Other countries of destination include Republic of Korea, Japan, and the GCC countries.

A growing number of migrant workers from Myanmar are attempting to use official channels to migrate, either through licenced overseas employment agencies or in the case of Republic of Korea through a government to government arrangement. However, due to the costs, the time, the lack of assurances of better conditions, the vast majority of migrants from Myanmar continue to migrate irregularly.

Sending a member of the family abroad to work is a necessity for many families not a choice. Thus creating a dependency on brokers and an urgency for the jobs which exposes the migrants to exploitation and extortion. Only when it is a choice will migrants be able to select the safest methods of recruitment and the jobs and destinations which offer true labour protections.

Internal Migration

New patterns of internal migration are also developing in response to new developments in the country. Growth of industries, including manufacturing and construction, draw young people from the rural areas to urban areas. Young women also move to work in domestic work. There is also considerable rural to rural movement especially for seasonal agricultural work and mining.

Internal migrants, far from home and often experiencing a different culture and language, can be vulnerable to exploitation in the migration process and in the workplace. Finding suitable accommodation at an affordable price is also a major challenge. The risks for internal migrants are increased if they don’t have full citizenship documents and if they have to pay brokers to migrate. Their risks of being in situations of forced labour increase in work sectors which have few labour protections especially domestic work, fishing, mining and construction.

ILO Labour Migration projects and activities in Myanmar: