Organisational structure of trade unions in Myanmar

Project Active from to Firms

Healthy industrial relations, or peaceful negotiations between workers and employers based on mutual benefits, is a key factor for sustained productivity growth. In developing countries, industrial relations are relatively immature, and issues of industrial disputes and strikes are becoming huge political concerns. However, little is known about industrial relations and union activities in developing countries based on micro-level data. In this project, through various data collection efforts, we investigate the characteristics of industrial relations and unions’ organisational structures as well as their relationships with firm productivity and working conditions in the garment sector in Myanmar, a developing country where national laws have allowed for the establishment of unions only since 2011.

Better understanding of industrial relations and unions in LICs is of critical importance to designing better legal frameworks. For example, countries as diverse as Myanmar, Bangladesh and Ethiopia are all currently considering changes in the regulatory environment for union activities. This project will build on a close collaboration with international organizations, the Ministry of Labour, union federations and business associations in Myanmar. The data and analysis generated can be utilized to guide the policies and regulations regarding industrial relations and unions.

This project conducts the following activities for investigating the characteristics of industrial relations in the garment sector in Myanmar.

  • We advise and collaborate with institutions that are currently running employer-employee surveys in the garment sector on designing their survey toward garment workers and employers in Myanmar.
  • We gather and digitize the administrative information on unions, disputes, strikes, and workers’ salary sheets from the Myanmar Ministry of Labor and Union Federations (CTUM)
  • We match data described in (1) and (2) with data on working conditions, management and import/export data. By analyzing the matched data, we obtain a broad picture of how different types of unions emerge and how their relationship with firms’ and workers’ outcomes.
  • We also explore more fundamental reasons that explain heterogeneity across unions in the extent and forms of activism and why unions exist in the first place, with a particular focus on the role of leadership.

Through the processes in the above, the project also explores the feasibility of evaluating interventions aimed at improving industrial relations inside factories in Myanmar.