A once vital profession clings to life in age of digitalization

Petition writers talk to Jordan News about the decline of the profession

clerks document
Abu Mohammad Alshamaileh, who has worked as a document clerk for over 50 years, is pictured in this undated photo. Alshamaileh and others say that after decades, their profession is dying. (Photo: Tameem Alzyoud/Jordan News)
AMMAN — In Amman, clerks stationed outside courthouses and official buildings were once a common sight. They made their living helping customers fill out forms and finalize documents.اضافة اعلان

Historically, their job was to write petitions filed by citizens with government offices, and evolved to include doing all paper work for customers that have official business with a government department.

But the increasing digitalization of the Jordanian government has led to the decline of this once reliable profession.

“I studied law for two years in Damascus, but I did not complete my studies,” document clerk, Naem Majaly, said in an interview with Jordan News. “I practiced the profession of being a document clerk because I loved it, and I have been working in this profession for over 17 years.”

For Majaly, “The problem is that our profession is not subject to development,” he said. “Ideas have evolved, laws have evolved, but our work’s license is based on a law from the year 1956.”

“This profession has no future because we are moving towards an electronic government,” Majaly said. “And many things are practiced electronically, and sometimes, it’s needless to come to court.”

“There are many difficulties,” Naem Majaly added. “We cannot bring our computer, our printer to write so that we can develop our profession. We are still using the old printer; although there are small rooms dedicated to document clerks in the design of the Palace of Justice, they do not allow us to use them. We sit under the sun, and this a challenging situation. They use these rooms as a warehouse which is not the main purpose that they were built for.” 

One clerk has been working for over half a century. “I began practicing the profession of being a document clerk from the age of fifteen,” Abu Mohammad Alshamaileh said in an interview with Jordan News.

“I practiced this profession because my father had been working in the Amman Palace of Justice since 1955 and retired in 1983, and through that, I became fascinated with writing official documents as a profession. I have been in this profession for almost 55 years.”

Alshamaileh explained that his duties include writing out official documents for anyone that wants to purchase land or replace an ID or a passport, etc.

“There is no guarantee (of payment),” he said. “If you want to have a guarantee, you must pay a large sum of money, and there is no union for us. So, we do not get anything.”

The digital era isn’t the first time the profession has run into trouble. “There was an administrative body at the beginning of 1997, they were preventing us from working,” recalled Alshamaileh. “I remember that once they took the chairs, tables, and the printing machine. They also took us to a security center. But the senior officers were with us, and they were saying that we had valid licenses from the Public Security Directorate and the General Intelligence Directorate. After that there were no problems.”

According to Alshamaileh, a clerk “is a legal officer like lawyers and judges.” He explained that each member of the profession must obtain a license valued at half a dinar annually. “However, the governor has the right to revoke any license at any time due to misconduct or if a writer uses offensive language in any official documents that he writes.”

Another clerk, Abdelfattah, told Jordan News that he has been working for 17 years since he first obtained his license.

“I chose this profession for two reasons: first, my age, because I can no longer endure long-term or nighttime hours and the working hours are not that long,” said Abdelfattah. “Secondly, this profession offers good financial income and is better than other freelance work.”

He added that “The future of this profession is good when people view this job with respect and appreciation,” and not as a job done strictly for monetary purposes.

But sometimes, he said, auditors or other customers do not respect or value his work. “They do not know how to give me the detailed information needed to help them, and they take other people’s time, and when they finish their document, they don’t want to pay the documents fee,” he said.

“The official document clerk sits under the scorching sun,” he added. “If there was a suitable indoor air-conditioned room, it would enable the writer to do a better job.”

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