Migration

TRIANGLE in ASEAN – Myanmar

The ILO TRIANGLE in ASEAN is a partnership between the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Global Affairs Canada (GAC), and the International Labour Organization (ILO). TRIANGLE in ASEAN delivers technical assistance and support with the overall goal of maximizing the contribution of labour migration to equitable, inclusive and stable growth in ASEAN.

Programme objectives

TRIANGLE in ASEAN has the overall goal of maximizing the contribution of labour migration to equitable, inclusive and stable growth in ASEAN. It builds on the activities, relationships and processes established under previous phases of the programme.

Programme outcomes

  • Protection: Migrant workers are better protected by labour migration governance frameworks;
  • Development: Policies and programmes harness the potential of women and men migrant workers to contribute to economic and social development and
  • Mobility: Labour mobility systems are gender-responsive and increase the efficiency of labour markets in the ASEAN region.

Labour migration

Labour migration has long been an important livelihood strategy for the people of Myanmar. By migrating, families and their communities have been able to survive periods of severe economic hardship and stagnation. It is thought that as much as 10 per cent of the labour force is working abroad, with over 3 million Myanmar migrant workers employed in Thailand and Malaysia alone (ILO, 2015). According to the World Bank, an estimated US$2.754 billion was remitted by migrants in 2018, approximately 3.9 per cent of GDP, which does not include the millions that are informally remitted through brokers or hand carried back home to family members.

An established policy framework to manage the immense labour migration flows is yet to be developed in Myanmar. As a result, migration remains largely laissez-faire and inequitable, divided between regular migrants who typically head to more developed economies within Asia and the Middle East via formal recruitment and irregular migrants who travel clandestinely to work in neighbouring middle income countries. The Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population (MOLIP) is mandated to manage labour migration from Myanmar and regulate the 273 licensed overseas employment agencies.

Because of the expensive, complex and time consuming procedures required for formal recruitment through licensed agencies, most migrants continue to seek out the assistance of unlicensed brokers or go abroad independently. The social networks that facilitate these movements were established long before any management systems had been developed to regulate labour migration. The involvement of unscrupulous actors and the lack of accurate and impartial information frequently also places migrants at risk of becoming victims of abuse and exploitation.

As Myanmar emerges from its long period of isolation from the international community, new jobs are becoming available both within the country and abroad. Old systems of job matching that included brokers, smugglers, returned migrants and local leaders may no longer be able to navigate the formal procedures of legal migration and are being superseded by licenced recruitment agencies. In 2016, the Government reported that approximately 1.9 million Myanmar workers had been deployed officially to 16 destination countries. In 2019, according to the Government, Myanmar is sending workers to 18 destination countries through the 273 licensed overseas employment agencies. In this newly emerging model of recruitment within Myanmar, potential migrants often do not know who to trust or how to make use of the more formal services offered, and their lack of know-how leaves them once again vulnerable to excessive fees and other forms of abuse.

For further information please contact:

Ms Wai Hnin Po
National Project Coordinator (NPC) for Myanmar
Tel.: +95 925 411 1394
Email: pow@ilo.org