Child labour still thriving in Myanmar


Myanmar ushered in a new democratically-elected government this month, but some of the country's old practices remain.

One of them is child labour.

The unregulated labour market is full of kids working to support their poor families.

For 16-year-old Tun Min, life is all work and no play.

Every day he heads down to the local boat market on the outskirts of Yangon, where he earns about $8.40 a day delivering fish.

Money is always on his mind.

"My wish is to become a trader in the fish market," he says. "I need some money to become a fish trader. Then, I can earn more money."

He dropped out of school when he was 12 to become the family's breadwinner after his mother fell ill.

Myanmar has one of the worst records for child labour in the world

Since 2011, the economy has been slowly opening up and loosening, but that's made the labour market hungry for more workers.

The new government of Aung San Suu-Kyi's National League for Democracy party wants to change that:

"If we cannot solve this problem, there will not be any development in our country because they will be serving the country in the future," says MP May Win Myint.

"They need to be educated to do that."

But that means the government will have to address labour laws that experts say don't work.

"I think it should be a priority area but needs to be combined with positive policies," says Michael Slingsby, UNDP Urban and Regional Planning Bureau for Asia.

"If you try to ban child labour, there's a danger that you drive it underground and people will still continue to work very young."

Myanmar is emerging from 50 years of neglect under military rule and is ushering in a new political landscape and modernising its cities.

It will also need to mend its broken education system and lift families out of the grinding poverty that forces them to send their children to work instead of school.