Among the various impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment is one of the major issues. According to the latest global estimates by the International Labour Organization (ILO), there has been an unprecedented estimated 4.5 percent reduction in economic activity and working time, and in the coming second quarter, the rate is projected to jump to 10.5 percent, which is equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs. As the unemployment conditions in Myanmar have deteriorated, more than 100,000 workers in the formal sector have lost their jobs. The estimates of the unemployed labor force in the informal sector are double or triple that of the formal sector. Due to the economic downturn, migrant workers abroad have also lost jobs and have been waiting to return to Myanmar.
According to a survey conducted by the Center for Economic and Social Development (CESD) in 2016, one of the major findings in Mon State was that the major income sources of 10-15 per cent of rural households were the remittances from family members who migrated to other countries and worked abroad. These remittances from these migrant workers contributed significantly to the livelihoods and social well-being of the rural population. In the COVID-19 period, the hotel, tourism, and garment industries had the most cases of business closures and layoffs. It will remain difficult for these sectors to bounce back and the long-term survival of these businesses depends on how well the virus pandemic is controlled.
The author recommends five measures for the implementation of policies regarding employment in the post-COVID-19 era: 1) linkages to the agricultural sector, 2) linkages to the aquaculture and other emerging animal husbandry sectors, 3) linkages to the national export strategy, 4) employment services for basic job opportunities, and 5) up-skilling training services. According to a number of studies, business-owners have suggested that an unready and unqualified workforce is one of the major difficulties encountered in business operations in Myanmar.
According to a workforce survey conducted in 2015, popular skills and technology-related training attended by the majority of the workforce were provided by private educational services and training schools. This fact highlights an issue in that the government’s educational services do not match the skill set needs that most in the workforce are seeking. The challenge is the gap between the long-term human resources development program of the education sector, and the changing dynamics of the skills required by the workforce, which is a common phenomenon in developing countries. The author suggests that addressing this issue, which is a dire consequence of the Socialist planned economy and the centralized government system, needs to be a priority for the government.
The author recommends that in addition to the funding support program for the private sector, as part of the COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan being implemented by the Union government, that the government should also engage in the speedy formulation of cooperative programs between the government and the private sector, as well as conducting relevant assessments and preparation. To enable private business-owners to implement new business models and equip themselves with relevant skill sets, while reimagining the ‘new normal’ future economy, government assistance is vital. Therefore, the author concludes the article by recommending the integration into the post-pandemic recovery plan of government assistance along with humanitarian assistance from the international community.