Aug 10, 2018

Myanmar’s poor crippled by debt to loan sharks

Brothers 13-year-old Aung Thet Paing (left) and 10-year-old San Lynn Aung (right) no longer attend school. Instead, they spend their days collecting rubbish to help pay off their family’s debts.

In Myanmar’s poorest neighborhoods, 85% of households borrow money from loan sharks just to survive.

Why it matters: The loans can rescue families from an immediate financial emergency, but with interest rates as high as 50% a month, borrowers are trapped in an ever-growing cycle of debt. Many struggle to make their repayments and send their children out to work.

  • Myanmar has one of the worst rates of underage employment in the world. The government estimates that there are 1.3 million child laborers, many of whom are working to help pay off their parents’ debts.
  • “We only have food to eat if we work," says Aung Thet Paing, 13. He spends his days collecting plastic bottles with his 10-year-old brother, rather than going to school.
  • “Sometimes, I think we’ll never be free from this because we are always struggling to pay the money back," says Lone Lone, 20. She struggles to feed her family on her wage as a housemaid, let alone pay back the family’s debts.

Go deeper: Watch the full report from AL Jazeera’s 101 East.

Go deeper

We can't just flip the switch on the coronavirus

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It feels like some big, terrible switch got flipped when the coronavirus upended our lives — so it’s natural to want to simply flip it back. But that is not how the return to normalcy will go.

The big picture: Even as the number of illnesses and deaths in the U.S. start to fall, and we start to think about leaving the house again, the way forward will likely be slow and uneven. This may feel like it all happened suddenly, but it won't end that way.

The Fed rescues Wall Street, but Main Street is another story

llustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In less than a month, the Federal Reserve has unleashed a multi-trillion dollar tour de force to buoy the U.S. economy against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: While it has steadied the markets, the Fed is poorly equipped to offset the hit being absorbed by small business owners and the close to 17 million Americans who have filed for unemployment in just the past three weeks.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 a.m. ET: 1,605,548 — Total deaths: 95,758 — Total recoveries: 355,983Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5 a.m. ET: 466,299 — Total deaths: 16,686 — Total recoveries: 26,522Map.
  3. 2020 latest: Top conservative leaders are concerned the Trump administration isn't addressing the virus' long-term economic impact.
  4. Public health latest: U.S. has expelled thousands of migrants under a CDC public health orderDr. Anthony Fauci said social distancing could reduce the U.S. death toll to 60,000.
  5. Business latest: After another 6.6 million jobless claims, here's how to understand the scale of American job decimation.
  6. 1 "SNL" thing: "Saturday Night Live" will return this weekend in a remotely produced episode.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredPets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.