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BWU’s New Report “Forgotten Workforce” Exposes Hardship of Burmese Migrant Women in China’s Border Boom Town

By Burmese Women's Union  •  February 23, 2012

A new report by local researchers exposes how increasing numbers of Burmese women are toiling to support the booming economy of China’s border town of Ruili under exploitative conditions and no legal protection.

Yunnan’s rapid growth has triggered a surge of northward migration from poverty-stricken Burma. Numbers of Burmese migrants in Ruili alone have now shot up to over 100,000, working in a range of sectors including domestic work, sales, construction and manufacturing.

Forgotten Workforce, by the Burmese Women’s Union (BWU), documents stories of migrant women from different parts of Burma, particularly the drought-stricken central dry zone. None of the women had been able to find jobs in Burma although many were high school graduates.

The women’s stories reveal persistent patterns of work exploitation and mistreatment by employers in China. Many end up in dank workshops using hazardous electrical equipment and chemicals to polish Burmese petrified wood ornaments for the Chinese market.

Women also face gender discrimination, receiving lower pay than men, and sexual harassment from employers. Health and safety risks are particularly high for the hundreds of women working in the sex industry, who are often forced to have unprotected sex, and face violence from clients.

The BWU is calling on the Chinese authorities to set up mechanisms to protect the rights of foreign migrant workers, particularly women.

“If China wants to promote good relations with Burma, it can start by protecting the rights of Burmese workers on its own soil,” said Daw Noe Noe Htet San, General Secretary, Burmese Women’s Union.

In 2011, China overtook Thailand as Burma’s largest trading partner.

For further information contact:
Daw Noe Noe Htet San – 66 (0) 89- 642- 2114
Daw Tin Tin Nyo – 66 (0) 81 – 0322 – 882

Download the press release in Burmese here, and View the report here.

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