A Rising Role for Labor Unions? An Explorative Study of the Influence of International Sourcing in the Garment Industry on the Context of Labor Unions i Myanmar

Laura Hasselklippe Tiltnes & Sara Tödt

Studenteropgave: Kandidatafhandlinger


The recent democratization and subsequent removal of EU and US sanctions on Myanmar, has entailed increased exports from the garment industry and a reintroduction of labor unions as stakeholders in labor rights issues. This thesis provides an analysis and exploration of how increased international sourcing in the garment industry influences labor unions ability to operate in Myanmar. Methods of analyses comprise a vertical and horizontal governance analysis of the context of Myanmar and the garment industry, and an economic and social upgrading evaluation of the influence of international sourcing. The Protect, Respect and Remedy framework is applied for analysis of responsibility assignation for labor rights between stakeholders in Myanmar. The analysis is based on qualitative interviews conducted during a field trip to Myanmar, interviewing experts, researchers and consultants in labor rights and labor union issues. The findings show Myanmar’s history of military dictatorship, and its structural remnants in the legal system and infrastructure, to be a prominent factor in shaping the context that labor unions operate in. The context of Myanmar is further found to be defined by a lacking habit of social dialogue. This in addition to a knowledge and a capability gap among both private, public and social actors, hinders the development of a functional system of tripartism. Moreover, the specific characteristics and structure of garment industry is found to be a governing factor in how international sourcing influences the context of Myanmar. The research also reveals that international sourcing increases the complexities of assigning responsibility for labor rights in Myanmar. The research draws attention to the risk of simplifying analyses of labor rights, detaching them from the historical and social circumstances in which they are to be operationalized. The thesis concludes that the role of labor unions is defined by the context they operate in, and that in the context of a developing country such as Myanmar, labor unions have a potential role in bridging the gap of responsibility for labor rights.

UddannelserCand.merc.ib International Business, (Kandidatuddannelse) Afsluttende afhandling
Antal sider135
VejledereKarin Buhmann