A consortium of government organisation, labour groups and academia has implemented a three-year project in Myanmar to improve the work environment in the country’s garment segment, including job creation, more sustainable and efficient productivity and enhanced community relations. The project will take place in 12 factories that supply Western brands, including Danish fashion retailer Bestseller, according to the Danish Ethical Trading Initiative (DETI), which is coordinating the project in collaboration with the British Ethical Trading Initiative, Danish trade union 3F, and Aalborg University in Denmark, along with the support of the Danish Market Development Partnerships Fund.
DETI announced the project, to be operational till the end of 2020, supports the democratic transformation in Myanmar, including a long-term effort to increase competitiveness and strengthen respect for human and labour rights in the country’s textile and garment sector. In November 2016, the US re-designated the country as eligible for the General System of Preference program.
While US trade with Myanmar remains small, since the initial lifting of sanctions, it has grown significantly. In 2016, two-way goods trade was $438 million, with US exports totalling $194 million, having almost quadrupled since 2012, as per figures from the US Trade Representative’s Office. “The purpose of the effort is to improve the efficiency, quality and working environment of textile production, and increase knowledge of human and labour rights and social dialogue for the benefit of both social and economically sustainable development of the industry,” DETI announced. “The project’s results will be used to develop a defined business case that can be used to spread experience to companies and employees throughout the textile industry in Myanmar. At the same time, the project contributes to the UN’s World Social, Economic and Environmental Sustainable Development Strategy,” it added. Local stakeholders in the project are SMART Myanmar, Yangon Technological University and local trade unions, Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar and UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey project.