Better Work Jordan, national partners discuss need for sustainable MHPSS service delivery to garment workers

Workshop examines key findings of the study, “Assessment of Knowledge, Perceptions, and Attitudes of Mental Health: The Garment Industry in Jordan”

Press release | 24 March 2022
The Better Work Jordan programme has discussed with national partners and Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS) service providers the need for sustainable MHPSS service delivery to garment workers, increased awareness, and improved working conditions.

At a workshop, the participants examined the status of garment workers’ mental health, as well as key findings of the study, “Assessment of Knowledge, Perceptions, and Attitudes of Mental Health: The Garment Industry in Jordan”. The study was conducted in partnership with the Information and Research Centre at the King Hussein Foundation between June and November 2021.

Jordan’s garment sector employs around 66,000 people, of which roughly 75 per cent are migrant workers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal. Jordanian workers make up the remaining 25 per cent. Nearly 75 per cent of the production workforce are women.

Better Work Jordan Manager, Tareq Abu Qaoud, told the workshop that psychological stress impacts on workers, and programme research emphasised the need for effective intervention. This promoted a collaboration between Better Work Jordan and the World Health Organization (WHO), in partnership with the Government of Jordan and other stakeholders, leading to the 2021 launch of the Mental Health Project. The initiative focuses on building garment workers’ resilience against mental health risks, including ensuring that factory-level support exists and mental health referral systems are accessible to all workers.

“Our role is to assist partners and employers in ensuring workers, especially migrants, who form the majority of the workforce, enjoy healthy working conditions,” Abu Qaoud said.

Awareness and services delivery needs

Mental Health Project Coordinator, Alaa Alnasser, talked about difficulties facing migrant workers, including lack of free of charge MHPSS services.

Alnasser said the assessment study aimed at highlighting the need for providing garment workers with MHPSS services, and for increased awareness of mental health as well as improved workplace facilities.

“Migrant workers should have awareness of the nature of their jobs, psychological stressors, and the relationship between wage and effort, in order to help them prepare psychologically,” she added.

The Mental Health Project collaborated with the Ministry of Health on training 38 physicians and nurses on addressing issues related to workers’ mental health, and on starting the development of a system monitoring and tracking workers’ mental health at factories.

The assessment study explored knowledge of mental health issues, causes, and treatment, perceptions on mental health and individuals going through mental health problems, attitudes towards seeking help, and experiences related to mental health, according to Jude Sajdi, member of the research team.

Sajdi said lack of workers’ knowledge about mental health problems and causes is problematic, nothing mixed opinions on whether biological or spiritual factors can potentially cause mental health problems. These factors, she added, impact how employers assess workers’ mental conditions.

“Barriers to seeking help from factory management and staff include the fear that problems will become bigger and more exposed, resulting in the spread of rumours; and fear of jeopardizing jobs of workers,” Sajdi explained, citing the study.

The study quoted a female worker from Bangladesh as saying: “If I keep this to myself, I can work, but if the company knows about my sickness, they will not keep me.”

Calls for legislative amendments

Najah Abu Tafesh, head of Occupational Safety and Health Directorate at the Ministry of Labour, said the ministry is working on legislative amendments to include mental health in Jordanian legislation, requiring employers to implement occupational safety and health standards at their establishments.

“Development of legislation on workers’ mental health in Jordan necessitates benefiting from experiences of other countries with such legislation,” she said.

At the workshop, discussion groups suggested several ways to improve migrant workers’ mental health, as well as incorporating the garment sector in Jordan’s National Mental Health and Substance Use Action Plan (2022-2026), launched by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the WHO.

Recommendations also included increasing worker and employer awareness, delivery of specialized mental health counselling services, and hiring counsellors from home countries of migrant workers.

Agreeing on the need for addressing the mental health needs of workers with disabilities, and for correct diagnosis and assessment of mental health conditions, the participants called for legislative changes, and for raising middle managers’ awareness.