Myanmar emerging economy with growth and opportunities

The garment industry in Myanmar has grown significantly in the past five years, from an export value of USD $900 million in 2012 to USD $2.7 billion in 2017.  Footwear exports during the same period increased from a little over USD $100 million to over USD $300 million in 2017.

In early 2013 there were about 220 factories producing apparel products in industrial-scale facilities. Now, in 2018 there are over 600 production facilities. 

There are over 1.1 million workers currently employed in garment, textile, footwear and accessories factories in Myanmar.  Research commissioned by C&A Foundation in 2017 predicted that the sector could employ over 1.5 million people by 2020.  In 2017, the population of Myanmar was 53 million. 

Some key reasons for manufacturing in Myanmar are:

  • An investment law which strongly promotes foreign investment
  • Favorable labor costs
  • High-quality workmanship from many years of experience in manufacturing for first-world economies including Japan and South Korea
  • International support from outside governments to provide technical assistance, training, and market access support
  • Substantial experience in outerwear manufacturing.

Opportunities

Manufacturing

In Myanmar, there are nine Industrial Zones, operated by local and international investors.

A textile industry park is being established in Mandalay city, U Zaw Myint Maung, chief minister of Mandalay Region, reported in May 2019.  The government will work with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to set up the industrial hub

There is an industrial park being built in the Ayeyarwady Region, which is expected to complete by 2020/21.  An industrial park being developed near Pathein, working with a Chinese firm that plans to build 50 garment factories within two years.   The Chinese company plans to establish garment factories on 200 acres in Pathein Industrial City. 

Retail

The Myanmar retail sector has seen a large number of foreign consumer brands enter the country and sold in stores over the past four years.  The value of the retail sector in Myanmar is between $10 and $12 billion in 2018.

There are around 250,000 total retail stores in Myanmar.  According to City Mart Holding Limited (CMHL), grocery, convenience, fabric, pharmacy, and fashion are the top five outlet categories, accounting for 45 percent of total retail outlets.

The consumer purchasing power continues to grow with a positive outlook for retailers.

Challenges

Despite 50 years of military rule, Myanmar is still one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia. But the country does have social, political, and legal problems. 

Myanmar’s garment industry is plagued by reports of ignoring workers’ rights. For the women, who make up 90 percent of the garment sector’s workforce, that often means enduring harassment and discrimination.

Experts and rights advocates are calling on employers and the government to better address personal safety and gender equality on the job.

Myanmar has made some moves to improve working conditions: the minimum wage has risen from 3,600 kyat ($2.70) a day to 4,800 kyat ($3.50).  But that minimum wage is still one of the lowest Asia, putting a further financial strain on women, who already endure injustices with every pay check.

Conclusion

Myanmar is a developing third world country with political challenges.

Being a new manufacturing region there is the problem of inadequate infrastructure (power supply, roadways, ports); unestablished systems, policies, procedures, etc. the country is plagued with problems about human rights and fair labor conditions.

The apparel and footwear industry is growing in Myanmar, which leaves lots of room for positive growth.  

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