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One in Five Children in Myanmar Go to Work Instead of Going to School, New Census Report Reveals

By The United Nations Population Fund  •  March 29, 2016

UNFPA, Yangon — A new census report on employment in Myanmar shows that one in five children aged 10-17 go to work instead of going to school. This is 1.6 million children, or 21 per cent of children aged 10-17. The report also highlights a profound gender gap in the country’s labour market.

Myanmar is on the verge of realizing an economic boom—known as the demographic dividend—thanks to its youthful population. But this is an opportunity that can only be realized if the country invests in children and young people.

“Today, one in five children aged 10-17 are missing out on the education that can help them get good jobs and have employment security when they grow up,” says Janet E. Jackson, UNFPA Representative for Myanmar.

Decisions made now will determine if today’s young generation will become an asset or a missed opportunity for Myanmar. This is true not only for children, but also for young people. At 9.3 per cent, the unemployment rate among people aged 15-24 in Myanmar is more than double that of the Union average of 4 per cent among people aged 15-64.

“The high unemployment rate among young people reveals a need for national labour policies and strategies that promote investment into jobs for young people, including for young women, who are more likely to be unemployed (9.5%) than young men (9.1%)”, Ms. Jackson notes.

Among the population aged 15 -64, there is a more important gender gap: Only 50.5 per cent of women are economically active (i.e., either working or looking for a job) compared to 85.2 per cent of men. Only half of women who could work are actually earning a salary for themselves and their families. Women (26%) are also more likely than men (11%) to be working for their family without pay as “contributing family workers”.

“These figures show women’s profound vulnerability when it comes to paid employment,” says Ms. Jackson, “but they also reveal women’s economic potential. The fact that a quarter of the productive population does not contribute directly to the economy implies Myanmar could reap a significant ‘gender dividend’ if opportunities for women were increased.”

The data are available in The Union Report: Occupation and Industry, Census Report Volume 2-B, which was published today by Myanmar’s Department of Population. By providing both detailed and broad data on employment across sectors, geographical areas, gender and age in Myanmar, the Census report on Occupation and Industry gives a picture of peoples’ day-to-day lives and what they do to earn a living.

The census was an undertaking on a massive scale and with far- reaching significance for Myanmar’s future and for its political and economic transition. Census data provide an essential tool for effective policy development, planning and decision-making in both the public and private sectors, as well as for civil society. They give access to knowledge about people’s situation and social needs, potentially benefitting the entire population.

For example, the Occupation and Industry census report shows that more than half of the population (52.2%) works in agriculture, forestry or fishing. Based on this data, strategies can be developed to improve agricultural productivity, resulting in higher individual earnings for farmers and increased national economic growth. The knowledge also can be applied to programmes that establish safety nets for farmers, such as health insurance and pension schemes.

The report also shows that one in five elderly people still work (22 per cent of people aged 65 and above). The majority of elderly workers are engaged in “agriculture forestry and fishing”, which is a physically demanding sector.

“The data suggest that economic realities oblige many people to continue heavy manual labour into old age to survive. This underlines the need for adequate social services and policies that serve the aged,” according to Ms. Jackson.

The Occupation and Industry report is part of the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census. The data on employment were not available when the main results of the census were published in May 2015, since the responses on occupation and industry were handwritten and had to be coded semi-manually in a process which is more time consuming than computer scanning.

While UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, has provided technical assistance to the census and continues to do so, the census and its results belong to the Government of Myanmar.

For more information or media inquiries please contact:

  • in Yangon,
    Yenny Gamming: +95 (0) 9 2604 00005; gamming @ unfpa.org (English)
    Si Thu Soe Moe: +95 (0) 9 4500 57730; soemoe @ unfpa.org (Myanmar)
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This post is in: Press Release

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