Heavy Job Losses in Myanmar Since Coup: ILO Report

By The Irrawaddy 21 July 2021

Myanmar lost an estimated 1.2 million jobs in the second quarter following the February military coup that crippled an economy already weakened by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).

“Myanmar was already facing economic stress with jobs and livelihoods under threat as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Donglin Li, the agency’s representative for Myanmar, said in a statement. “However, the estimates show a serious and rapid deterioration in employment in the first half of this year on a scale that could drive many in Myanmar into deep poverty.”

The labor agency said the political crisis has “exacerbated the severe impacts of COVID-19,” and has “extensively destabilized the economy and halted an expected economic recovery.” The employment trends during the first half of 2021 indicated “considerable losses in both employment and working hours,” with women estimated to have been impacted more than men.

Estimates by the United Nations’ labor agency showed employment contracted 6 percent in the second quarter of 2021, compared to the final quarter of last year, suggesting that more than 1.2 million workers were no longer employed. The job losses are greater when compared to the final quarter of 2019 with about 3.2 million, or 15 percent of all workers, no longer employed, according to the ILO.

While all sectors of the economy have been impacted, construction, garments, and tourism and hospitality are among the hardest hit, with employment dropping by 35 percent, 31 percent and 25 percent respectively in the first half of this year, according to the agency’s report.

Since the coup Myanmar has been hit by a third wave of COVID-19. More than 2,100 people have died of the disease since Feb. 1, according to the junta-controlled Ministry of Health and Sports. But the actual death toll is believed to be far higher due to the under-reporting of coronavirus fatalities. As of July 19, the country had 229,521 cases and 5,000 deaths; nearly 90 percent of the country is said to be affected.

The UN, international organizations and activists have accused the military of failing to prevent the pandemic in the first place. Since the coup, Myanmar’s health care system has collapsed.

Myanmar’s shadow government, the National Unity Government (NUG), warned on Monday that 400,000 people could die due to the military junta’s mismanagement of the third wave of COVID-19, as dire shortages of oxygen have caused daily death tolls to spike. The UN has also warned of devastation.

Since the coup, 919 civilians had been killed and 6,828 arrested during anti-regime protests. Over 5,000 people are still being detained, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

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