Across the globe, workers and unions have played a key role in raising minimum wages through participation at policy dialogues or strikes. Their expectations about minimum wages and the ways they influence policy dialogue are important for sustainable industry growth. While minimum wage may ensure fair compensation for workers, it may come at the cost of firm closures and unemployment when it is set high relative to labour productivity.
The objective of this project is to respond to the Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar's (CTUM), the largest federation of trade unions in Myanmar, request for evidence to be supplied for the upcoming policy dialogue on Myanmar’s minimum wage revision. Additionally, the researchers aim to leverage their collaboration with CTUM to explore the following:
- How workers or unions form their expectations about minimum wages, particularly through peer-group discussions and the role played by union leadership in influencing expectations and the convergence of views; and
- Whether the inclusion of workers to the decision-making process ('voice') affects the workers' satisfaction and future behaviours such as turnover rates and strikes.
By conducting comprehensive surveys through a large-scale data collection effort, the researchers will produce an evidence-based independent report for the government to inform on the minimum wage revision.
The researchers and the CTUM will aim to survey garment and construction workers to collect data on their wages, skills, living expenses, working conditions and their beliefs about the optimal level of the minimum wage. With the data collected, the researchers aim to analyse how different hypothetical minimum wage adjustments may affect employment in Myanmar's garments and construction sectors.
Additionally, by complementing the surveys with carefully designed workers’ discussion groups and lab-in-the-field exercises, the researchers will elicit participants' expectations for the minimum wage increase, investigate the extent to which union leadership influence workers’ expectations and understand whether voice may affect workers' outcomes.
There are potential benefits for the CTUM of collaborating with independent researchers like the production of a report with high-quality analysis and understanding the optimal ways of collecting opinions from workers. Moreover, understanding the trade-offs involved when setting a new minimum wage level and building the state’s capacity by promoting an open, transparent policy dialogue can be especially important in light of Myanmar’s ongoing transition to democracy.