Understanding Local Cultures in Myanmar

In order to facilitate a greater understanding for local cultures in Myanmar, the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, in alignment with the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, have collaborated to create a nation-wide useable guide titled “Respecting Myanmar Culture in the Workplace”. This guide was created in order to provide those working in Myanmar with more background information on the local culture and norms of the country, to educate the many foreign workers in this nation.

Myanmar is a country with many unique cultural nuances that foreigners would not necessarily know about, as they are not commonly published or as well-known as cultural practices from other countries. These practices may include factors as simple as dress codes and meal etiquette.

Diversity and inclusivity in the workplace is a vital component of human resources, and is a constantly changing and adapting function in many companies. More research is now available linking diversity in the workplace to many positive traits, including higher levels of innovation, creativity, better customer relations, and an overall more positive corporate culture.

Myanmar has created an attractive tool by developing the above-mentioned guide, and it will be interesting to see if organizations operating within its borders take advantage of this education. While not as formal as a traditional diversity and inclusivity-training seminar, this guide could be a good stepping-stone to encourage employees to learn about different personal cultures in their workplace. It can be especially noteworthy for companies with many international locations. There are a number of North American companies with production facilities in other countries that would benefit from the development of such a cultural guidebook.

Myanmar has many current social and political problems that remain a burden to foreign investment and improving employment standards and norms. Garment workers in countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India and Indonesia are all subject to poor working conditions (some facilities could even be referred to as ‘sweat shops’), and the employees are unable to earn a living wage, thus making it harder to inspire more inclusivity in the workplace.

The International Labour Organization has provided a guide to Myanmar’s Labour Law and lists the elimination of discrimination within the workplace as one of the foremost fundamental principles of the country alongside the concepts and practices of freedom of association, collective bargaining, elimination of compulsory labour and elimination of child labour. Unfortunately, workplace discrimination is the only topic of those previously listed not been accounted for in Myanmar’s labor law. More research on this topic has been collected and published in the last few years, thereby showcasing the need for organizations to reduce, and eventually eliminate, discrimination in the workplace. Even though Myanmar still has a long ways to go in order to eradicate their organizational diversity issues, small steps such as these guides should be seen as a sign of an inclination towards progress.

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