Is it working? Factors sustaining child labour in Mandalay

Dr Shin Thynn Tun, Prof. Thida Htwe Win, Daw Zin Mar Nyein, Daw Zin Thu Tun, Daw Khin Phyo

Child labour is a significant feature of urbanization, where migration from rural areas contribute labour to urban development, the food industry and other sectors. In these circumstances, the public perception and definition of child labour may be fluid, based on cultural and economic values. This in turn marginalizes such labour, which often takes places in liminal economic space. In Myanmar, despite laws stating the minimum age for working in factories, shops, commercial or public entertainment establishments is 14 years old, over one million children-nearly ten percent of the child population-are considered to be engaged in child labour. Many are working in hazardous workplaces and for long hours with no regular income. However, comparisons between the two largest cities in Myanmar show that the rates of child labour, and rate of exposure to hazardous work are much higher in Mandalay than in Yangon. This paper explores the reasons for high percentage of child labour in Mandalay, asking what factors enable the ongoing tolerance of child labour despite widespread awareness of child rights and labour laws. This research will use ethnographic methods to analyse the perspectives of stakeholders who are utilising child labour and to analyse the key economic, social, cultural and legal factors which act as enablers or constraints on child labour in the context of urbanization.


Dr. Shin Thynn Tun is a lecturer in the Anthropology Department. Her research has focused on rural livelihoods, including collaborative research on Flood Based Farming System with International Water Management Institute-IWMI in 2017-2018.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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