Thousands Sacked in Myanmar's Commercial Hub Yangon Amid COVID-19 Downturn

By Myo Pa Pa San 13 May 2020

Yangon — More than 6,300 factory workers in Yangon Region have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, according to the Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar (CTUM).

As 47 factories in Yangon have either closed or reduced their workforce due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, 6,355 factory workers have been made redundant as of the end of April.

“According to our list, 13 factories have closed and 32 factories have downsized due to supply shortages. And the owners of two factories have fled and their employees were left unpaid,” said Ko Soe Thet Paing Oo of the CTUM.

Most of the factories make clothing, shoes and bags, he said. At least 10 more factories have reduced their workforce in May, but the CTUM has not added them to its list, he said.

While some factories have temporarily closed, some have closed permanently, citing a decline in demand. Most of the factories that have closed were owned by investors from China, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, but a few were owned by Myanmar citizens.

According to Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population, as many as 100 factories have closed or reduced workforce.

“It is difficult to say the exact number of employees who have lost jobs. A factory has a workforce of 100 to 7,000,” said head of Yangon Region Factories and General Labor Laws Inspection Department U Kyaw Kyaw Tun.

The labor ministry said it was ensuring sacked employees receive redundancy payments and social security compensation.

The health and labor ministries have visited factories across the country to inspect preventative measures against COVID-19, and have only allowed factories that meet requirements to resume operations.

President U Win Myint said on International Workers’ Day that employees who were registered with the government’s social safety net and were sacked because of the COVID-19 downturn will be entitled to free public health care for one year after losing their jobs.

There are 29 industrial zones plus Thilawa Special Economic Zone in Yangon Region.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko