Someone recently commented to us that humans are “low risk and high profit” and, after having read recent press reports about the shocking working conditions allegedly subsisting in Myanmar garment factories, this statement sadly rings true.
The latest research has revealed that following the lifting of sanctions and the prospect of cheap labour, the garment industry in Myanmar has exploded: Myanmar garment production was estimated to be worth US $1.46 billion in 2015, with EU imports of clothing from Myanmar worth €432 million that year (up 80% year on year) and with circa 350,000 workers being employed in the industry by 2016 (90% of which were women)1. Unfortunately, this has led to people, mainly women and children, working in conditions where wages are desperately low and where many are forced to work excessive hours and often unpaid overtime to ensure that customer orders are met for large organisations in the developed world. Sadly, this is not the first time that situations such as these have been brought to the world’s attention. We can all recall the Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka in April 2013 and the report last year that hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees were working in garment factories in Turkey. Again, the overwhelming majority were women and children who did not have the legal right to work and who therefore felt unable to speak out for fear of reprisals. There are other examples closer to home in terms of cockle and fruit pickers, nail bar workers, garage car wash attendants and those working in the sex trade.