“I was terminated from my factory on 7 March. In the past, I was able to provide for my family’s rental costs and food expenditures. Now, I am not sure what we will do,” said Ms. Thuzar Aung, a sewing operator from Bo Ko Lay town, Ayeyarwaddy. Ms Thuzar Aung is one of around 30,000 workers in the apparel industry who have lost their jobs over the past two months because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global markets. She will be among the first recipients of a cash payment of MMK 75,000 from Myan Ku, a €5 Million (7.9 Billion Myanmar Kyat) Emergency Cash Fund established by the EU to assist the thousands of predominantly female garment workers and their dependent families across the country.
Moe Moe Khine has also been a sewing operator in a factory that was affected by a sharp decline and large number of cancellations of orders because of the effects of the coronavirus crisis on the global markets. “I can no longer support my parents, and now my main problem is that I can no longer afford to pay my hostel rent,” she said.
On International Workers Day on 1 May, Myan Ku transferred the first payments to garment workers who have been suspended or terminated due to the impact the COVID-19 crisis has on Myanmar’s garment sector. An average payment of 75,000 MMK for up to three months goes directly to the workers and is disbursed in full respect of social distancing through the Wave Money mobile system. Workers from six factories that have suspended operations during February and March were included in the first batch of cash transfers. Over the next weeks, Myan Ku is expected to reach around 90,000 workers.
“The Myan Ku Emergency Cash Fund is real solidarity from the European Union towards the thousands of workers in Myanmar, and their families, who lost their livelihoods due to COVID-19. Myan Ku will provide quick, easily accessible financial support for the workers,” said EU Ambassador Kristian Schmidt. “In a global crisis like this one, it’s always the poor who suffer the most. Around the world, we will all need to improve the safety nets for the most vulnerable, and I am proud the European Union can show its solidarity with this immediate and direct helping hand.”
The Myanmar government – who themselves had established a US$ 71 million COVID-19 fund in support of priority businesses including in the garment sector – welcomed the EU initiative: “We appreciate the support provided by the EU through the Myan Ku programme in these times of hardship for workers. We will also cooperate with the EU to address the issues,” said Union Minister for Labour, Immigration and Population, U Thein Swe.
Eligibility criteria for financial support through the Myan Ku Emergency cash Fund are listed here.
Factory managers can enroll workers who have recently been terminated or suspended by filling out the Myan Ku online application form here.
Garment factory workers who have been terminated or suspended can also directly apply by calling Myan Ku’s main hotline: 09-750208887 between the hours of 8am and 8pm, Monday to Friday.