Estidama program concludes end of June, funds and benefits run out too

(File photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — The estidama program will come to an end later this month, when financial allocations for it will come to a halt, the spokesperson of the Social Security Corporation (SSC), Shaman Al-Majali, said.اضافة اعلان

Majali told Jordan News that the SSC launched the program in December 2020 to pay the wages of workers in the sectors that were mostly affected by lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government contributed two-thirds to the program’s budget, with the remainder coming from the SSC.

He said the SSC moved to the “Estidama Plus” program to expand social security coverage through a $6 million grant from the governments of the Netherlands and Norway. The funds were used to support the “fragile and weak sectors”, where employers could not afford to pay the wages of their workers during the lockdowns.

That included the agricultural sector, which does not subscribe to SSC, and the self-employed, such as tour guides and taxi drivers. He said the program, which continued for 18 months, provided income to Jordanian and non-Jordanian workers, including refugees, valued at a maximum of JD100.

In the third phase of the program, the SSC moved to the “recovery program”, when economic activity began.

Majali said that the number of Estidama beneficiaries reached 100,000 workers and 7,000 facilities. He stressed that the reasons for the continuation of the program ceased “as we are all in the stage of recovery from COVID-19”.

Abdul-Jawad Al-Natsheh, a lawyer who specializes in labor affairs, said the SSC “has fulfilled its duty to provide social protection” to people in need of assistance. “Now, it is the employers’ duty to cover their employees’ salaries, and there is a legitimate fear of not being able to cover it”.

“There are some institutions and factories, which did not operate so far and their workers have been receiving assistance from Estidama,” he said. He expressed his concern about their fate, explaining that the number of these factories and institutions “is a few, but the number of workers is huge”. He said he did not have the exact numbers.

Hamada Abu Nijmeh, the head of the Workers’ House, said that assistance programs, like Estidama, “were supposed to stop a long time ago, since there was no need for it because it supported the private sector institutions, not the workers”.

He said the programs also allowed a 25 percent reduction in workers’ wages, as did “Estidama Plus” for example. Moreover, it deprived the workers of being covered by old-age insurance in order to reduce the burden of contributions to it.

“This is contrary to the existence of the insurance system, which was found to serve workers and provide insurance for them in the cases of disability, old age, work injuries, occupational diseases, unemployment, and maternity,” he said.

“These tasks are well-established in international standards, ratified by Jordan, and are stipulated in national legislation,” he said. He insisted that providing assistance to employers, whether in the form of grants or loans, can be funneled through other institutions.

He said the program allowed the employer to reduce the workers’ wages by 15 percent and gave some establishments the right to reduce the old age contribution for all or some of their employees by 50 percent.

“This unjustified infringement on the rights of workers and the future of their benefits in old-age insurance upon their retirement, did not leave the workers any option and gave unrestricted power to employers,” he added.

Read more Features
Jordan News