By Kyle Lawrence Mullin
Burma’s minimum wage was raised to 3,600 kyat (US$2.80) for an eight-hour work day at the end of August, a move that may attract more investors and further legitimize the Southeast Asian nation’s long maligned garment industry.
Reuters reported that this new wage standardization in Burma (Myanmar) comes after nearly two years of “acrimonious” negotiations between workers’ unions, employees and the government.
The article adds that a minimum wage of 3,600 kyat or $2.80 per day would amount to $67 a month, making Burma highly competitive in a region where rival nations have set salaries far higher, such as the $90 to $128 minimum range in nearby Cambodia and Vietnam. This could mark a sharp reversal of fortune in Burma,, whose formerly robust garment industry stalled in recent years due to American economic sanctions.
However, the announcement was by no means met with unanimous praise. On July 17 Radio Free Asia reported that 160 business owners and 20 labor groups objected to the then proposed minimum wage. The article noted that this new wage standardization resulted in a salary increase of 50 cents. Those critics said the wage hike would make their businesses unsustainable.
Some workers, adversely, have argued the new minimum wage is not high enough. AFP reported that some employees were calling for a 4,000 kyat ($3.10) daily wage by staging protests outside of factories, leading many of them to be arrested.
The new minimum wage will take effect on Sept. 1, becoming another economic milestone in a country that is projected to have a GDP expansion of 8 percent by the fiscal year’s end. It also marks another major reform in the weeks ahead of general elections this November.