People from different religions discuss about discrimination for input of the briefing paper in Yangon (Photo-MCRB).
People from different religions discuss about discrimination for input of the briefing paper in Yangon (Photo-MCRB).

Responsible-business agency launches report to encourage equality in Myanmar companies

Economy September 09, 2017 01:00


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AS DRAFTING an anti-discrimination law is underway, the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, a Yangon-based initiative funded by six European countries, on Thursday released a paper to help companies combat discrimination in hiring and in the workplace.

MCRB director Vicky Bowman said the paper describes discrimination in policy, law and practice against several groups in Myanmar including women; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people; people living with HIV; people with disabilities; ethnic minorities; and religious minorities.

“We would like to see all companies combat discrimination and make a commitment to having inclusivity, diversity and equal opportunity as core business values,” she said. 

Women, members of ethnic minorities and people with disabilities face discrimination at some workplaces, she said. Companies must be aware of the forms that it takes in Myanmar to combat discrimination effectively. 

“While there are some obviously discriminatory laws still on the statute books, much of the discrimination in Myanmar today is a matter of societal attitudes, just like it is around the world. 

“That means it may be ingrained in the way the company, and its workers, go about their jobs,” she said. 

“A manager may not even be aware of something being discriminatory, particularly when it concerns indirect discrimination. 

“This briefing paper aims at raising awareness of where the company might be failing to spot discrimination, or failing to act on it.”

The paper provides practical recommendations to companies to address the challenges they are facing, including specific recommendations for each high-risk group.

Companies must be alert to discrimination in their hiring practices, and should create favourable conditions for people living with disabilities to apply for jobs. 

“Businesses need to be aware of potential discrimination in their workplaces,” she said. 

In June, the organisation held a consultation with representatives from women’s groups, organisations working on behalf of LGBT people, people living with HIV and disabilities, and ethnic and religious minorities, to collect their suggestions.

The paper urges training on religious discrimination for all company workers to improve interfaith relations.

It also recommends providing services and facilities to consumers of all religions in a non-discriminatory and fair manner, and ensuring company advertisements do not perpetuate religious stereotypes and instead support a message of diversity.

“Discrimination can start with the recruitment process. Businesses routinely require applicants to show their Citizenship Scrutiny Cards (ID cards) to verify age, and whether individuals have the right to work in Myanmar. 

“However, these cards currently also list the individual’s religion and ethnicity, which could reinforce biases in decision-making about who is selected,” it says. 

It is equally important that employment applications focus on qualifications including education and experience rather than some discriminatory measures such as marital status, physical appearance, religion, ethnicity or any other information that is not relevant to the ability to do a job, it added.