“Jobs in SEZs: Migrant garment factory workers in the Mekong region” is now available online

The Mekong Migration Network (MMN) and Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), jointly implemented a research and advocacy project from 2016 to 2019, investigating labour and migration issues in Mekong SEZs through a gendered lens. Guided by the question of whether the jobs being created within these zones are promoting decent work for women migrant workers, this study developed four case studies of SEZs: Thilawa SEZ (Yangon Region, Myanmar), Phnom Penh SEZ (Phnom Penh, Cambodia), Manhattan SEZ (Svay Rieng Province, Cambodia), and Tak SEZ (Tak Province, Thailand), with a particular focus on the garment industry.

From May 2017 to July 2018, MMN project partners surveyed garment factory workers across the four study areas. 700 respondents completed a questionnaire – 200 each in Yangon, Tak, and Phnom Penh, respectively, and an additional 100 respondents in Svay Rieng. In Yangon and Phnom Penh, where garment factories are clustered in peri-urban industrial areas outside of SEZs, the questionnaire was carried out with workers employed both inside and outside of the SEZs in order to compare workers’ experiences. Between July 2018 and February 2019, in-depth interviews with select women garment factory workers, along with key informant interviews with representatives of governments, SEZ management committees, employer associations, factory owners, trade unions, and civil society organisations, were conducted in each location.

Based on the results of an analysis of the study’s primary data as well as a thorough literature review, four key themes emerged as requiring special attention in order to realise decent work for women migrant garment factory workers in Mekong SEZs. These areas were: working conditions, labour organising, skills development and recognition, and care work. The impact of SEZ development on workers’ mobility was also highlighted in an analysis of these themes.

Published in July 2019. The PDF of the report is available here.

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