Fashion retail giant says it has taken action against its two factories after new book in Sweden raises fears about working conditions in the country


Swedish fashion chain H&M worked with clothing factories in Myanmar where children as young as 14 toiled for more than 12 hours a day, according to a book being published in Sweden next week.

“They employed anyone who wanted to work,” Zu Zu, one of the girls who started work aged 14, told the authors of Modeslavar, or Fashion Slaves in English.

Writers Moa Kärnstrand and Tobias Andersson Akerblom met with 15-year-old girls who were working 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 it had taken action with both factories over ID-cards and overtime after being made aware that a group of 14- to 17-year-olds had been working long hours since 2013.
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However, it said in a statement: “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 revelations raise new fears about conditions in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, where British retailers including Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Primark and New Look who have joined H&M, C&A, Aldi and Gap in recent years.

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. (…)

Read the article: The Guardian

Written by Sarah Butler