Half of Jordanian laborers are employed informally — report

Number of working children increases to more than 100,000

factory workers worker
(Photo: Flickr)
AMMAN— Nearly half of Jordanian workers have informal employment, according to a report published on Saturday by the civil society organization Workers’ House, Khaberni reported.اضافة اعلان

Informal workers lack legal and social protection such as social security and health insurance suffer from poor working conditions, violations of their rights, and injuries stemming from lack of occupational safeguards.

They make up 48 percent of the Jordanian workforce; of these, 26 percent work in the private sector, and 17 percent are self-employed, the report shows. The rate of informal employment for women was 27 percent.

The informal sector has grown at the expense of formal employment during the COVID-19 pandemic. So has the phenomenon of child labor. More than 100,000 children work in Jordan, nearly 45,000 of them in hazardous fields. Tens of thousands entered the workforce during the pandemic; before the pandemic, approximately 76,000 children were working.

The Workers’ House report said that the pandemic has lifted the veil on the fragility of Jordan’s labor market; it called for legislation that better supports the most vulnerable groups and encourages the transition of workers from the informal to the formal economy.

The report was published for the occasion of Human Rights Day, a holiday declared by the UN General Assembly in 1948.

Jordan became the first Arab country to commit to a Decent Work Country Program in 2006, an initiative sponsored by the UN’s International Labor Organization, which wishes to promote respect for the principles of “decent work”, social justice, and equality as the basis of economic policy.

The Kingdom has also ratified 26 international labor conventions. The Constitution enshrines the principle of equality for all Jordanians, and the right of a worker to receive wage commensurate with the quantity and quality of work.

The situation in Jordan has continued to fall short of these principles, Workers’ House notes.

The workweek is limited to 48 hours under Jordanian law, but the report found that 37.3 percent of workers work 49 hours or more per week. The rate is especially high among foreign workers, 63.6 percent of whom work 49 hours or more.

The labor force participation among men stands at 53.2 percent, while among women it stands at 14.2 percent. Only 33.5 percent of Jordanians above the age of 14 participate in the economy, one of the lowest rates in the world.

There has been a clear decrease in job creation over the past few years. The Jordanian economy added 38,906 jobs in 2018, while around 130,000 people enter the workforce every year.

Other challenges that Jordanian and foreign workers face include exploitation, forced labor, and unsafe conditions, especially in the sectors of education, agriculture, and domestic work.

The report also points to delayed payment of wages, non-payment of overtime hours, or payments that fall short of the minimum wage.

Jordanian authorities have also moved to restrict trade union activity. The Labor Law of 2019 subjected syndicates to audits from the Ministry of Labor, which is now allowed to dissolve any administrative body in any syndicate, and which decides how workers are supposed to be classified for the purpose of unionizing.

Workers’ House recommended giving cash and in-kind assistance to low-income families, expanding subsidies and health insurance coverage, providing support to small and medium enterprises, exempting basic necessities from taxes, and enforcing the law protecting people with disabilities from discrimination.

The organization also called for education reforms to reduce the unemployment rate among graduates and direct Jordanians to specialties that the private sector needs. And, in light of the way women are vulnerable to employment and violations of their rights at work, it called for Jordan to apply international standards on the status of women.

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