Low wages and high paying city jobs make it hard for Delta farmers

Farm workers refusing to work for low wages in the Irrawaddy Delta has caused a labor shortage in the region.

Farm owners in Ba Wine village, Pantanaw Township, say it is now difficult to find workers to work for wages lower than what is on offer in the big cities.

Saw Han Gyi, a local farm owner from Ba Wine village explained to Karen News about his problem.

“The farming needs 12 workers a day. Now, it is difficult to find people to hire, it is not going well. One acre of land can be worked well with 12 people. If we have to work with 10 people they have to work harder to cover for the loss of two people.”

The Irrawaddy Delta of Burma, renown as ‘Burma’s rice bowl’, is facing a lack of farm workers due to low wages paid by farm owners in the area.

Local people said a working day at a paddy farm starts at 7am to 5pm and the daily wage for that is between 1,200kyat (US$1.25) to 1,500kyat a day. Local farmers admit that the low wages is making it difficult to hire people since there are other jobs that offer higher payments.

Naw Peh, a daily laborer from Uh Toe village spoke to Karen News.

“It is not worth it [rice farming] for the work that we have to do and the money that we are paid. It usually takes 12 people to work an acre of farmland, but now farmers are using 10 people to do the same work. It means more work for the same wages – no one wants the work.”

Naw Peh said that in the past, farm owners provided food and snacks for their daily laborers, but now because of the higher wages that workers want farmers are only giving green tea and cheroots.

Villagers said that low daily wages for farm workers in Pantannaw Township has seen many people, especially adults, go to Rangoon to find work in factories, stores, markets and as domestic as they can earn more money.

Farm owners in Ba Wine village said that it is costing them 14,400kyat to cultivate an acre and most farmers are running their farm by borrowing money from banks and moneylenders at 20% interest.

Farm workers said that daily wages for farm workers in Pantannaw Township areas in 2012 was 1,000kyat – not enough to feed their families.

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