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Impact of Child Labour and Child Poverty in Myanmar

Myanmar and the Roots of Child Labour

Located in Southeast Asia, Myanmar, formerly Burma, has a steadily growing economy. Before the COVID-19 Pandemic economic growth in Myanmar was projected to increase to 6.7 per cent in 2021/22 after picking up to 6.3 per cent in 2019/20 and 6.4 per cent in 2020/21. Of course, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, those numbers are expected to decrease; however, this just goes to show how well Myanmar was doing, but not mentioning a word about the true darkness that engulfed the nation. A growing economy does not necessarily entail all good things; a major factor in Myanmar’s growing economy is child labour.

Myanmar’s child labour stems from the widespread poverty across the country. Many families are unable to survive solely on the parents’ or guardians’ wages. In 2018, 24.8% of the population in Myanmar lived under the national poverty line, according to the Asian Development Bank. This subjection to poverty has forced many of the families’ younger members, who cannot yet work legally, to sacrifice their education to survive.

Effects of Child Labour

The sacrifice of education deprives the children and adolescents of a normal childhood. Child labour leaves the younger workers vulnerable and exposed to many risks that can damage them internally and externally, which can hurt them in the short and long run. The deprivation of the children’s and adolescents’ childhoods is the equivalent of denying their opportunities to develop into people who have reached their highest potential and have a hopeful future.

Without their education, the younger workers’ chances of gaining future employment and finally ending the family’s cycle of poverty are substantially decreased, ultimately hurting the government’s efforts to eradicate the use of underage workers. Not only this, but child labour also puts the underage workers in physically dangerous situations. Due to their young ages, their bodies have not fully developed and are weak deterring them from being able to handle difficult/menacing tasks. Howbeit, they have no other choice, and the young workers perform tedious tasks for long hours, despite Myanmar’s laws clearly condemning employment of young people under the age of 18 for work with dangerous machinery.


Solutions to Child Labour and Poverty

In the 2015 Myanmar Labour Force Survey, it was found that the majority of underage age workers performing hazardous tasks were between the ages of 15 and 17. However, adolescents between 12 and 14 years old also had similar hazardous tasks. It was also found that these workers work very long hours, some working up to 60 hours or even more. All of this is not to be taken lightly. There have been real interviews with real underage workers that expose how terrible child labour can be. Aye Min, a 13-year-old construction worker, revealed to CNA Insider that he has worked on high levels of the building that was not yet completed, putting him in a position where one slip could lead to a fatality. Another 13-year-old, Khine Hnin Wai, also revealed to CNA Insider that as a domestic worker, he made a mistake and as a result, was punished by getting burned with a hot iron and hot water.

This subjection to such dangerous risks and denial of the opportunity to develop correctly is an obvious violation of the children’s rights and impacts not only the underage workers but also their families and ultimately, the country itself.

When child labour plays a large role in the country’s growing economy, the economy is growing on an unstable, unreliable foundation. Not only is the economy put at risk, so are the civilians. With the perpetual cycle of poverty so widespread and prominent, it will be difficult to improve the country’s situation. The children and adolescents who are impoverished are put in dangerous positions that are potentially harmful to them. The desperate younger workers don’t get a chance to develop correctly and gain an education which will help them in the future, increasing the likelihood of mental illness, like depression, and health issues, like respiratory problems.

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The cry of not having money to do anything except working with their miniature hands, the young echo of the lament of their forefathers, years of mind-numbing toil that have killed all initiative and the ability to dream, ruining the vision of children – are just a few of the several tragedies child workers have to face every single day. The lack of adult workers with proper knowledge and skills will hurt the workforce in Myanmar and eventually the world, inevitably hurting the economy, forcing future adolescents to work for long hours and low wages and create an everlasting chain and cycle of child labours. The time to stop such miseries is now! With the help of different organizations’ persisting youth have a greater likelihood of being able to help bring their families out of poverty, without having to engage in the arduous labour.

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