Industry Update/National Response
- Six factories in the industry, including one satellite unit with a majority Jordanian workforce, have announced they are closing their business due to challenges related to the pandemic. Several factories are facing reduction in production orders and financial issues.
- As of mid-August, 1,000 migrant workers from four garment factories are expected to leave the country upon the resumption of international flights to their home countries.
- As the number of local coronavirus cases are increasing, the government announced the reactivation of Defence Order No. 11 starting 15 August. The order commits people to wearing face masks and gloves while in public. The order obliges individuals and institutions with “the highest levels of preventive measures” against COVID-19 and imposes penalties on all those who fail to adhere to the order.
- The government issued Defence Order No.15. The order stipulates the expansion of social security programmes to include workers in the public sector by enabling them to obtain financial advances that will be repaid upon retirement without interest. It also includes exemptions for private sector companies who have outstanding social security payments.
- As the Jordanian economy is reeling from the impact of the pandemic, the unemployment rate continues to increase and stands at 19.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 . The highest rates of unemployment were recorded in the age group 15-19 (48.3 per cent) and 20-24 years (39.7 per cent). Among the unemployed, people with a higher degree of education continued to be the most affected. While the jobless rate rose for males (18.1 per cent in Q1 2020 vs 16.4 per cent in Q1 2019), it decreased for females (24.4 per cent vs 28.9 per cent).
- The Jordanian government announced on 3 May defence order no. 10 related to extending the submission period of the tax returns and tax dues to the Income and Sales Tax Department during the official holiday until end of June 2020.
- On 26 April, the government launched an online platform for migrant workers to apply to return to their home countries. Regardless of legal status, applicants will be exempted from overstaying or any work permit fees due to the current situation in the kingdom. Based on a statement by the Ministry of Labour, foreign workers in Jordan wishing to leave the Kingdom amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to withdraw their social security benefits before their departure. Foreign workers will be able to receive their financial entitlements after registering their application through Hemayeh platform and obtaining the MoL approval on their requests. Starting 31 May for a period of two weeks, the Ministry of Labour will reactivate the platform for foreign workers requests to travel back home. Exemption of fees still apply.
- The government has announced a number of defence orders to protect people’s wellbeing and rights. The recently issued defence order number (6) aims to ensure minimum layoffs and addresses conditions for institutions and individuals to benefit from support programmes in light of the economic challenges caused by the pandemic crisis. Defence order 9 released on 16 April aims to ensure livelihood and job stability for workers and support the private sector through setting up a programme for protecting businesses, freelance workers and daily wage workers.
- The government has provided additional guidance, including initial financial support such as suspending some provisions of social security payments. Companies have the option of stopping contributions to the Old Age Program (keeping only disability and health insurance) for March-May 2020. Where firms choose to do so (they have the option to do so for all or some employees only), they will only pay a 5.25% contribution rate, instead of 21.75%. All employees will still be covered with Disability, Death, Unemployment, and Maternity insurance. Those employees who would be affected by a change in payments by their employer will still be able to contribute voluntarily during this period. Firms will also be given the choice to pay contributions in instalments until the end of 2023.
- The government also issued safety instructions to prevent the spread of coronavirus for employers and employees. The nine guidelines relate to grocery shops and supermarkets, drinking water bottles, gas cylinder transportation, bakeries, shopping centres and supermarkets that sell food supplies, the distributors of food supplies (home delivery), a shopper’s guide, a pharmacies guide and a guide for large industrial institutions. Better Work Jordan supported the translation of the guide to large industrial establishments to English and disseminated it to the union and employers’ associations in the apparel industry.
- The Ministry of Labor has announced a number of measures to ensure the protection of workers health and labor rights. It has established a hotline to receive complaints from workers on labor violations, and issued nine guides for vital sectors on COVID19 safety measures (i.e. food supplies, shopping, bakeries, pharmacies, grocery, water, gas, salary transfer, industrial establishments). Better Work Jordan supported the translation of the guide to large industrial establishments to English and disseminated it to the union and employers’ associations in the apparel industry.
- Amid the growing developments related to the pandemic, The Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) launched a JD500 million soft financing programme to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The central bank also introduced measures related to restructuring of loans to individuals and institutions.
- The government is promoting e-wallets, which will ensure wage payment as well as health safety since wages will not be paid in cash/paper bills. To date, 159,000 e-wallets have been created over a span of one month.
- The government and the Social Security Corporation (SSC) are putting forth plans to protect all workers that are working in the formal and informal sector – depending on the status of the enterprise (i.e. enterprises that need temporary support to sustain its business during the crises, and enterprises that are closing down). These measures may include: the utilization of the unemployment fund to pay wages for the employees that lost their jobs, employees their employers has currently no capacity to cover wages for, daily workers, and subscribers in SSC on a voluntary basis. The unemployment fund; and the possibility of using other funds available at the CBJ.
- Travel to and from Jordan has been restricted since 17 March until further notice.
- As of 11 August, the Ministry of Health reported 1,283 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country with 11 deaths.
- To learn more about the government’s COVID-19 response and labour-related defence orders and regulations, please follow this link.
Factory Service Update
- Better Work Jordan resumed assessment field visits end of June, however, the majority of advisory visits will remain virtual, and will be conducted on-the-ground only for critical cases. Virtual training sessions and industry seminars are conducted regularly by Better Work Jordan team.
- Better Work released a briefing paper highlighting main findings of the second round of the impact surveys conducted end of last year. Over the course of a month from mid-December 2019 to mid-January 2020, Better Work Jordan collected survey responses from a representative sample of nearly 1,700 workers in Better Work Jordan participating factories on issues related to working conditions, stakeholder awareness, and personal life. Results from this section of the survey can be found here.
- Better Work’sProgramme Manager continues to join the MoL delegations in their different visits to garment factories to ensure decent working conditions in the Jordanian garment industry.
Additional Better Work Activities
- On 20 July, Better Work held virtually the 44th PAC meeting for the garment sector. Representatives from the MoL, the Trade Union, Jordan Garments, Accessories & Textiles Exporters Association in addition to different relevant actors participated in the meeting. The meeting discussed enhancing the structural integrity of dormitories in Jordan’s garment sector, promoting digital payment across the industry, and the endorsement of the unified contracts for Jordanian, Syrian refugee and migrant workers that was concluded in 25 June 2020.
- As factories in the southern region of the factory are gradually returning to business, Better Work Jordan resumes collaboration with MoL. Through a secondment programme, the MoL Labour inspectors are conducting visits to factories in the areas and Better Work Jordan Enterprise Advisors are conducing virtual calls with factory management.
- Better Work Jordan is liaising with all stakeholders to limit the impact on workers and business and identify a collective approach to support the industry. Upcoming training sessions include:
- Workplace Communication
- Covid-19 awareness raising
- Sexual Harassment Prevention
- Personal Hygiene
- Advanced PICC training