Fashion retail giant H&M factories in Myanmar employed 14-year-old workers toiling for more than 12 hours a day.
“They employed anyone who wanted to work,” Zu Zu, one of the girls who started work aged 14, told the authors, Moa Kärnstrand and Tobias Andersson Akerblom, of ‘Modeslavar’ (‘Fashion Slaves’)
15-year-old girls worked until 10pm in breach of Myanmar’s laws and the international labour convention. The girls were working for two factories, Myanmar Century Liaoyuan Knitted Wear and Myanmar Garment Wedge, both near the capital, Yangon.
H&M said, “When 14– to 18-year-olds are working it is therefore not a case of child labour, according to international labour laws. ILO instead stresses the importance of not excluding this age group from work in Myanmar. H&M does of course not tolerate child labour in any form.”
The International Labour Organisation recommendations, although it says children aged 13 to 15 may do light work, as long as it does not threaten their health and safety, or hinder their education.
Erinch Sahan, from Oxfam, which carried out research into working conditions in Myanmar factories last year, said the charity had not looked into child labour but had found a high prevalence of forced overtime and low pay. “I am not hugely surprised these problems are happening given the scale of disempowerment of workers in Myanmar,” Sahan said.
Last year, the Myanmar government set a minimum wage of 3,600 kyat (£2.30) for an eight-hour day, one of the lowest in the world.