Improving Labour Relations for Decent Work and Sustainable Development in the Myanmar Garment Industry (ILO – GIP)

The ILO-GIP project aims to reduce poverty and contribute to the empowerment of Myanmar women working in the garment industry by improving labour relations, social dialogue and gender equality.


A fast growing influx of local and international investments is a significant driver of economic growth in Myanmar, now referred to as one of the “top 10 performers in developing Asia”, after decades of military rule and isolation. In 2014, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimated that the current growth rate of 7-8 per cent could continue until 2030, raising GDP per capita from $900 to between $2,992 and $3,603 by then. While economic growth may be affected by various factors, the ADB is optimist that that Myanmar economic growth will remain rapid in the medium to long–term as a result of ongoing reforms, increasing private sector investment, and new infrastructure projects. .

Myanmar garment workers at a factory in Yangon.
Myanmar‘s garment industry is leading the country manufactured goods export sectors. Its export value reached $2 billion in 2016, up from $349 million in 2010. This account for more than 10 percent of the country’s export revenues. The garment manufacturing is estimated to employ around 380,000 workers, in more than 400 factories, 90 per cent of whom are young women. The Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) claims that the industry could achieve exports of $8-10 billion by 2020 if all the stakeholders (factory owners, workers and their respective organizations, various ministries, even international brands and their agents) continue to work together to develop the industry in a responsible and ethical manner.

Owing to its recent past history, Myanmar is yet to develop an efficient legal and institutional framework to establish the sound labour market governance needed to sustain the promises for sustainable growth and development for all.

Against this backdrop, the ILO in Myanmar has been awarded a 3-year project entitled “Improving labour relations for decent work and sustainable development in the Myanmar garment industry” (ILO-GIP).

Objectives of ILO-GIP

The ILO-GIP project aims to contribute to the overall reduction of poverty and the empowerment of Myanmar women working in the garment industry by improving labour relations, social dialogue and gender.
More concretely, the project’s objectives are to:
  • Assist and train employers and workers in selected garment enterprises to build sound labour relations practices, including (but not exclusively) effective communication, workplace cooperation, dispute prevention and settlement, occupational health and safety, (OSH), gender equality, productivity and collective bargaining;
  • Empower women via the removal of obstacles to their participation in different level of social dialogue, including increasing their knowledge of health and reproductive related matters;
  • Increase the capacity of employers and workers organizations to deliver training and other support services to their members; and
  • Support employers’ and workers’ organizations at the sectoral level through training on social dialogue and sound industrial relations practices and in developing practices of bi-partite social dialogue.

Outputs of ILO-GIP

The GIP project has three main entry points to deliver sound and healthy social dialogue and industrial relations practices in the garment sector.

Worker-based training activities

The project will develop and deliver a balanced curriculum on garment workers’ rights and responsibilities at work. This training is delivered in different formats and venues, being responsive to the realities of the industry. This basic knowledge is essential to support the long term and sound industrial relations in factories and at the sectoral levels.

Enterprise level activities

At the enterprise level, in participating factories, the project partners with employers’ and workers’ representatives to strengthen Workplace Coordinating Committees (WCC).
The WCCs are intended to have both a dispute settlement and a social dialogue function. Training and coaching activities deal with issues such as: workplace cooperation/bipartite social dialogue, productivity, occupational health and safety (OSH), women’s health and safety and empowerment. With the goal to be responsive to individual factories’ needs, individual action plans, based on factory baseline assessments, will guide the WCC members in prioritizing areas for interventions.

Sectoral activities

The ILO-GIP project works with workers’ and employers’ organizations of the Myanmar garment sector to build their capacity to deliver services to members, to establish high trust relations between the social partners, and to develop and improve structures and practices of social dialogue. The project carries out a series of capacity building activities with trade union and employer representatives, including awareness raising and basic skills for labour relations (negotiation skills, grievance handling, representing members through the conciliation and arbitration processes, and collective bargaining). It also organizes policy development workshops with a view to building a shared vision and action plans on decent work and sustainable development in the garment sector through improved labour relations. Policies that require national action will be submitted to the National Tripartite Dialogue Forum.

Gender as a mainstreamed priority

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are cross-cutting objectives of the project, integrated into all of its activities, where the participation of working women is at the forefront. Furthermore, the ILO-GIP project will deliver a detailed training programme on sexual and reproductive health designed for Myanmar garment industry. The objective of the training programme, targeting workers, targetted factories clinic staff, peer and natural leaders and HR managers is to raise awareness on and improve access to sexual and reproductive health services mainly at the factory level.