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Labour data

Myanmar: New labour force survey addresses data gap

Reaching high coverage, the first labour force survey in Myanmar in a quarter century will provide results in October that will shape the country’s employment policy.

Article | 26 June 2015
GENEVA (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) has expanded its activities in Myanmar and has a significant programme of work in the country.

As Myanmar opens up, ILO News caught up with Debi Mondal, Chief Technical Advisor for the Labour Force Survey Project in Myanmar.

With the field work now completed and results expected this Fall, Mr. Mondal described the national labour force survey he is leading from his base in the capital of Myanmar, Nay Pyi Taw.

ILO News: Why is there a need for a labour force survey in Myanmar?

D. Mondal: Twenty-five years ago, the Department of Labour conducted a labour force survey in Myanmar with the assistance of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). But there has been nothing since. In addition, the earlier survey did not include data about child labour or the transition of youth from school to work. There is a need for up-to-date data that are also highly credible. Some restrictions were lifted as the country transitions away from decades of economic and political isolation towards a more open society, so we started the planning phase of the project back in 2013, as ILO activities expanded beyond forced labour to other areas.

ILO News: What does the survey cover?

D. Mondal: It covers a range of topics on labour statistics such as the labour force, child labour, the school-to-work transition, disability and migration, as well as work accidents and hazards. Also, for the first time, we looked at labour that produces goods for household consumption, such as subsistence farming.

ILO News: When you have all the data analysed, what will be done with it?

D. Mondal: The data will be really useful and will feed into employment policy. To have appropriate and effective policies, real, accurate and up-to-date data are required.

ILO News: How was the Myanmar Labour Force Survey done?

D. Mondal: It was a household survey, so interviews were conducted with families. There are about 81,000 enumeration areas—these are small geographic pockets covering the entire country. We took a sample of 1500 of these enumeration areas and selected 16 households in each using a scientific sampling scheme. So we interviewed about 24,000 households in total throughout the country. There were more than 200 questions we asked to each and every household member, including children or their proxies. If a household member was absent, we also talked to a proxy, so our information is as comprehensive as possible.

ILO News: What types of questions did you ask?

D. Mondal: After noting name and sex, we asked the household characteristics, followed by particulars of the household members like disability, migration within or beyond the country, education, if the person was working or not; if he or she was self-employed; if he or she was looking for work; what type of remuneration is provided; how much time is worked per week; if the person has social security; have there been any accidents and what are the hazards. We asked about education details: if studies are completed, when they were completed; and about how the person transitioned from school to work. We looked into child labour, asking about the child labour characteristics including hazardous conditions.

ILO News: When was the survey work conducted and when do you expect to have the results?

D Mondal: The field work took place from 1 January to 31 March 2015. Data are currently being processed and analyzed and we should have the results of the survey in October of this year.

ILO News: Do you have an idea already of some of the key results?

D. Mondal: I have an idea of some of the results in certain areas, but we really need to wait a few more months for the full analysis, due to the complexity of our questionnaire. With more than 200 questions asked to each member of 24,000 households, we will have a lot of information. I am looking forward to the results.

ILO News: I understand there were a number of challenges in conducting the survey….

D Mondal: The main challenge was the lack of expertise in carrying out such a survey, as this was the first household-based survey of the Department of Labour in Myanmar. In the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, there is a very small unit, called the Manpower Unit, headed by a deputy director that is responsible for statistics in the Ministry.

ILO News: How did you get over this constraint?

D. Mondal: The ILO did a lot of training and held workshops both in Myanmar and abroad in places such as Istanbul and Turin. More than 200 persons ─ government civil servants ─ were trained in labour statistics, that is, in both practical and theoretical aspects, including data analysis. Trainees came mainly from the Department of Labour and the Central Statistics Organization, but also the Department of Technical and Vocational Education, the Department of Population and the Department of Educational Planning and Training.

ILO News: Were you able to reach all the households in your sample?

D. Mondal: We pretty much covered the whole country. There are 15 states and a low-density population of around 51 million, according to the 2014 census. Shan State was the only exception due to the security situation, but even there we reached 85 per cent of households and we are considering, at the moment, whether or not to attempt to reach the 15 per cent remaining. The response rate overall to the survey was very close to 100 per cent. In Myanmar, there are community leaders who are responsible for groupings of 10 households, whilst other community leaders are in charge of larger clusters of 100 households. This system and the authority of these leaders certainly helped get the job done.

ILO News: What are your general impressions of this project?

D. Mondal: Those persons involved performed very good work. People are very sincere and there is a lot of interest to learn new things.