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UN labour group says 1.6M jobs lost in Myanmar in 2021

Elaine Kurtenbach

BANGKOK (AP) – The International Labour Organisation (ILO) said about 1.6 million jobs were lost in Myanmar in 2021, with women suffering the worst setbacks as work in factories, tourism and construction dwindled amid the pandemic and a military takeover.

In a report issued yesterday, the ILO said the country was facing a “multi-dimensional humanitarian crisis” as political turmoil, violence, insecurity and displacement have been heaped on top of the troubles from the coronavirus pandemic.

The jobs lost, which include both formal employment and informal work, amounted to about eight per cent of all employment, as many people stopped working after the military seized power on February 1, ousting the country’s elected government.

Myanmar’s economy is estimated to have contracted by about 18 per cent last year.

The ILO said that many workers had shifted into poor paying jobs or farm work, while conditions at factories have deteriorated as the military administration has cracked down on labour organising.

People disembark from a ferry at the Pansodan jetty in Yangon, Myanmar in 2021. PHOTO: AP

About half of all adults in Myanmar work in agricultural related jobs and the sector has been hit by a drop in exports, lower prices, disrupted access to credit given wider troubles in the financial sector due to the coup, and flooding, the report said.

Farmers are also suffering from armed conflict, as security forces fight armed ethnic organisations and members of the political opposition amid widespread public resistance to the military’s takeover. The report estimates that nearly a third, or about 350,000, construction jobs had vanished as investors suspended or cancelled projects.

About 80,000 jobs in tourism and hospitality also were lost as hotels shut down and the country was closed to most travel due to the pandemic.

Most of those jobs were held by women, the ILO said. So were most of the 220,000 jobs estimated to have been lost in garment manufacturing, one of the fastest growing opportunities for female employment before the pandemic and military takeover.

The crisis has “reversed years of progress in the labour market and, if unaddressed, will continue to widen gaps in decent work particularly for the most vulnerable workers and businesses”, it said.

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