Jordan’s economic growth has remained stagnant over the past decade and has been characterized by elevated levels of unemployment (18.3% in 2018; 24.1% for women and 38.9% among the youth), persistently low levels of labour force participation (39.1% and14.6% among women), and a largely segmented labour market split along the lines of gender and migration status.

The international community has acknowledged that Jordan provides an international public good by hosting the second largest percentage of refugees per capita in the world behind Lebanon. The Jordan Compact (2015) pledged to transform the challenges brought about by the refugee crisis into a ‘development opportunity.’ To do so, the international community pledged to support Jordan to  provide easier access to EU markets in return for allowing refugees to access its labour market.

Since then, a host of new challenges have emerged:
  • The EU-Jordan trade agreement has not generated the expected results, job creation has been minimal. By comparison the Jordan-US free trade agreement which entered into force in 2010 took five years to sustainably impact export volumes and job creation.
  • The work permits for Syrian refugees have contributed the formalisation of Syrian workers and an improvement in their working conditions. However,  many Syrian refugees lack social security, and a cost effective solution for social protection.
  • Jordan’s National Child Labour Survey documents that the number of child labourers has doubled since 2007 to 69,000. The number of Syrian child labourers is thought to be under-estimated.
The Government of Jordan (GOJ) launched the Jordan Response Plan for the Syria Crisis (JRP) 2018-2020 to consolidate efforts to respond to the impact of the Syria crisis on refugees and nationals. In a context where the return of refugees is unlikely in the short term coupled with an ever-present risk of donor and host country fatigue, the JRP focuses on targeting vulnerable individuals irrespective of their nationality and support to build the capacity of government structures.

Jordan has also put forth 32 national strategies and policy frameworks including:

The Jordan Vision 2025;
The Jordan Economic Growth Plan 2018-2022;
The National Employment Strategy;
National Strategy for Human Resource Development (2019-2020); and
A Policy Matrix consolidated by the World Bank (with some inputs from the ILO) that aggregates all the conditions of bilateral donors supporting the country.

In 2018 Prime Minister Omar Razzaz issued a two-year Revival Plan 2018-2020 which aims to create 30,000 jobs with decent work conditions through various forms of active labour market programmes and support structures including on-the-job training and apprenticeships. 

The ILO in Jordan

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan became a member of the ILO in 1956, ten years after gaining independence. Jordan has ratified 26 ILO Conventions, including seven of the eight Fundamental conventions. The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87) has yet to be ratified. In 2018, the GOJ, social partners, and the ILO agreed on a new Decent Work Country Programme (2018-22), which focuses on three priority areas:
  • Job creation for social cohesion;
  • decent working conditions for all to support fair access to the labour market; and
  • capacity building of social partners. 
The Jordan Decent Work Country Programme has the largest programme portfolio in the Arab States with a total number of 21 active projects. The DWCP includes the following interventions:

  • Evidence based policy making: The ILO provides technical advice to the Department of Statistics (DOS) in order for to update the regular Employment and Unemployment Survey. The Survey now includes non-Jordanians as well as the definition of employment decided upon in the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians. In turn, the ILO works with the Labour Market Observatory of the Ministry of Labour to install the ILO Stat software at the ministry in order to generate meaningful analysis based on DOS and administrative data. The ILO also provides technical assistance to shape the regulatory framework around the access to the labour market for non-Jordanians, particularly Syrian refugees. To this effect, more than 10 decrees have been amended to facilitate this access.
  • Active Labour Market Programmes and support to companies for job creation: As part of the Programme of Support to the Jordan Response Plan, the ILO provides direct support to workers and companies to support job creation, including through:
    • A total of 13 employment service centres for job matching, 11 of which are within the Public Employment Service directorate. More than 6,000 workers were placed in jobs in 2018;
    • recognition of Prior Learning (testing and certification) that benefited more than 10,000 workers;
    • on-the-job training and placement programme which has benefited over 900 workers since 2018;
    • facilitation of work permits for Syrian refugees in construction and in agriculture, more than half of which were granted through ILO interventions in 2018; and
    • export facilitation for job creation for 10 companies under the Rules of Origin trade agreement with the European Union.

Skills Development 

In addition to the direct interventions mentioned above, ILO has also provided technical inputs for the May 2019 Law on the High Commission on TVET that gives a greater say to the private sector in the national skills development system. Together with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the ILO supports Sector Skills Councils, especially for skills anticipation studies. Prior to that, the ILO agreed with the Centre for Accreditation and Quality Assurance (CAQA) on a national testing and certification methodology, and provided support for its implementation. The ILO also supported the Economic and Social Council to draft a national apprenticeship framework to be adopted under the National Strategy for Human Resource Development.

Employment Intensive Approach to Infrastructure

The ILO partners with the Ministry of Public Work and Housing, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to create, maintain and rehabilitate public assets and expand of agriculture in arid areas, with a labour intensive approach. As of April 2019, 400,521 workdays were created for 8,797 workers, 13.5% of whom were women and 2.41% were Persons with Disabilities.

Sectoral approach to compliance

The Better Work Jordan programme has been active since 2008, overseeing export sector growth of the garment sector over these 10 years at rate between 5 and 10 %  annually alongside consistent improvements in Decent Work principles. Participation of garment factories in the programme is mandatory when they export to the US. Workers’ management committees prioritise areas for improvement at factory level, and a Collective Bargaining Agreement and a standard contract template shape the employment conditions for the sector. A transparency portal also allows buyers to prioritise compliant factories. This approach has now expanded beyond the garment sector, into chemical and plastics factories.

A ILO project has also started in Agriculture to pilot a compliance model for 40 farms that also benefit from technical support for productivity and exports. The GOJ and social partners have also agreed to negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement in the construction sector, which will also be supported by a project focusing on skills, including lifelong learning.

Migrant workers

Apart from Better Work Jordan, several projects also support migrant workers in the country. For one, a Workers Centre in Al Hassan industrial zone that provides legal aid, medical support and entertainment for migrant workers that otherwise spend their time on the factory floors and in dormitories. Another project has piloted a corridor approach between Nepal and Jordan where all phases of the migration experience—from recruitment to Jordan and return to countries of origin—comply with decent work principles.

Under the FAIRWAY Project, the ILO works with the Domestic Workers’ Department to standardize complaints and handling procedures, as well as prevent disputes through information sharing. The ILO also works to promote positive attitudes to domestic workers among employers and the general public through the My Fair Home campaign.

Child labour

The 2016 National Survey on Child Labour estimates that there are close to 70,000 child labourers in the country. With the support of the ILO, the GOJ has put in place a National Framework on Child Labour, and has established an online referral platform for the ministries of labour, education, and social affairs—150 children are now registered. The ILO also pilots several direct services in urban areas and in agriculture to combat child labour. 


The education sector is the main sector for employment of women in the country. In turn, the ILO supported a National Campaign for Teachers that resulted in a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which provided wage protection for teachers through mandatory bank transfers. The accreditation of private schools is now linked to the respect of this CBA. A similar approach is now being considered for other sectors, as part of the Equal Pay International Coalition and the World Bank Mashreq Fund for Women’s Economic Empowerment.

In addition, the ILO has promoted a revision of labour code articles that were agreed in May 2019. These revisions include provisions for paternity leave, flexi-time and day care centres. ILO now collaborate with UN Women under a regional programme for women’s empowerment.

Occupational Safety and Health 

The Ministry of Labour and the ILO have agreed on a comprehensive reform of labour inspection centred around the principle of strategic compliance and e-inspection to allow for self-inspection and improved accountability. This reform will also provide a sector focus, specifically in agriculture, construction and domestic work. At the same time, gender and child labour related issues are prioritised.

Social Protection

The ILO has agreed with the Social Security Corporation (SSC) on a range of interventions to improve its benefits and outreach, while at the same time strengthening the financial sustainability of the SSC. In particular, ILO’s work focuses on generating evidence and capacity building to inform the SSC agenda on the extension of social security coverage to unregistered workers in the informal economy. In particular, the most vulnerable groups have been targeted, with a special focus on agriculture and constriction workers.

The ILO will also support SSC to explore avenues to extend social insurance coverage in the context of the Future of Work, and the implementation of the regulations for the extension of coverage to flexible and part time workers. In addition, the ILO will support the SSC to assess maternity protection schemes and develop reform options to enhance its coverage and impact.

Capacity building of social partners

The ILO has been building the capacity of the Jordan Chamber of Industry (JCI) and the General Federation of Jordan Trade Unions (GFJTU) to improve services to their members and to contribute to the policy debate. The JCI has established export facilitation services and can now serve as a Secretariat for Sector Skills Councils which undertakes skills anticipation surveys, among other activities. The GFJTU provides flexible work permits to Syrian refugees in the construction sector, has raised the awareness of refugees on their legal rights and entitlements, and commenced a job placement service as part of an apprenticeship programme.