Better Work Jordan: PAC meeting examines preliminary studies seeking to promote decent work in garment sector

Press release | 29 September 2022

The Project Advisory Committee (PAC) of Better Work Jordan has discussed means to advance decent work in the country’s garment industry in line with preliminary findings of five studies recently conducted on the sector.

Four studies explored access to childcare services for Jordanian and Syrian workers at Al Hassan Industrial Estate; healthcare services for garment workers; situation of garment workers with disabilities; and working hours and wages. A fifth study provided legal and institutional assessment of employer associations.

The 49th meeting of PAC grouped representatives of the Ministry of Labour (MoL); the Jordan Garments, Accessories, and Textiles Exporters’ Association (JGATE); the General Trade Union of Workers in Textile, Garment, and Clothing Industries; Jordan Chamber of Industry (JCI), the US Embassy in Jordan; the International Labour Organization (ILO); and research centres hired by Better Work Jordan to carry out the studies.

Childcare services for workers

Consultants contracted by Better Work Jordan and JGATE studied accessibility to childcare services at Al Hassan Industrial Estate, in the northern Irbid Governorate.

The meeting discussed the findings, which assessed and identified worker needs in terms of preferred options in accessing childcare services; challenges in accessing different options to childcare services stipulated in existing legislation; and recommendations for best options to access these services.

The study collected data from 524 Jordanian (355) and Syrian (169) workers, the majority of whom are women (72 - 70 per cent). According to the findings, 33.8 per cent of respondents preferred a regulated childcare centre of choice, and 77 per cent said the factory they work at does not provide any accessibility to a childcare service. Cost was the main challenge facing accessibility to a preferred childcare service, followed by its locations. The study reported that 69 per cent of respondents agreed that childcare services affect workers’ decisions of joining a factory; 46 per cent believe nurseries have positive impact on a child’s personality; and 52 per cent thought of quitting work due to childcare responsibilities.

The Government of Jordan (GoJ) has changed policies around how employers must support childcare several times in the last few years. The first change, in 2019, expanded the requirement for day care facilities to include men with children and not just women with children. The second change, in 2021, increased flexibility for employers by allowing them to pay workers directly if they do not have a day care facility. The payment for workers is dependent on the base salary. While supporting childcare is a good goal, there have been some unintended consequences from the policy which places the full burden on employers. Better Work Jordan is exerting efforts to address these consequences.

Fathallah Al Omrani, president of the trade union, highlighted “the need for ensuring a healthy childcare environment for workers,” adding that “this encourages women to join the labour force in the sector”.

Better Work Jordan Programme Manager, Tareq Abu Qaoud, emphasised the importance of the study, saying “employers at Al Hassan Industrial Estate could heavily benefit from the results.”, He added, however, “the findings cannot be applied to other industrial zones as each one of them has its own complexities”.

Healthcare services for workers

PAC examined another study prepared by a consulting firm assessing healthcare services, including first aid and occupational safety and health systems provided for garment workers at 13 of the 91 factories registered with Better Work Jordan.

Assessing and identifying worker needs, health services at clinics, and legal gaps, the study found issues with these services and medical supplies, as well as cleanness and hygiene standards. It made short and long-term improvement recommendations.

The study revealed significant issues with worker sick leave entitlements. While workers are aware of their sick leave rights, some factory medical staff and external physicians were instructed not to give sick leave to workers. The study reported cases of rejecting sick leave letters from external doctors.

Haitham Al Najdawi, head of the MoL Inspection Directorate, said the findings shed light on important issues that could help MoL inspectors assess healthcare services in the sector. “The study encourages the ministry to train inspectors on setting standards for assessment of health services at enterprises, and for adequate healthcare services for workers,” he added.

Abu Qaoud emphasised the need for a clear mechanism for granting sick leave to workers, and for enhancing health services in the sector.

Workers with disabilities

A separate study looked into the situation of workers with disabilities at nine factories and three satellite units in the garment sector. It aimed to identify barriers and obstacles facing these workers when searching for and accessing work, and when working in garment factories, across physical, cultural, and social dimensions.

According to the findings, challenges faced by garment workers with disabilities include social and cultural discrimination, wage gaps, and lack of reasonable accommodation and empowerment at work.

The researchers identified interventions to address challenges, as well as stakeholders with the capacity to implement these interventions.

The PAC meeting agreed on the need for strategies and plans ensuring workplace inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Najah Abu Tafish, head of the MoL Occupational Safety and Health Directorate, said protection of workers with disabilities is stipulated in labour regulations, which specify employer responsibilities of makings sure inclusion policies are in place.

Abu Qaoud explained that legislation on workers with disabilities aim to guarantee their workplace inclusion, adding that providing these workers with reasonable accommodation at factories is achievable.

JGATE Chairperson, Ali Imran, who also owns a garment company participating in Better Work Jordan, spoke about difficulties facing persons with disabilities in securing jobs, as well as collaboration with the trade union and MoL on implementing study recommendations.

Working hours and wages

A fourth study showed that migrants work substantial overtime -- average of 59 hours a week, compared to 42 hours per week performed by Jordanian workers.

There are no limits on the amount of overtime that can be worked under Jordanian law, but the long working hours put high physical and psychological pressure on workers, and impact their productivity.

The study found that setting a cap on overtime hours would affect migrant workers, but not Jordanians, and that migrant workers’ pay is closely tied to the number of overtime hours they work.

Al Omrani believes that pressures of the global garment industry prevent the Jordanian garment from raising minimum wage. “If minimum wages increased, the garment sector would lose a competitive edge,” he said.

The ILO is committed to supporting its social partners in their dialogue about setting minimum wages, according to Abu Qaoud.

Employer associations

As part of its efforts to support stakeholder capacity building and industry competitiveness, Better Work Jordan commissioned a legal and institutional assessment of employer associations in the garment sector. These are JCI, JGATE, the Association for Owners of Factories, Workshops and Garments, and the National Sector Skills Council in the garment and leather industry.

This assignment aims to help Better Work Jordan identify roles, responsibilities, strengths and weaknesses of each organisation; design a capacity building plan serving needs of identified organizations; and establish collaboration modalities based on capacity requirements and constraints.

The study includes recommendations for effective models of business representation in the sector, and for capacity building.

ILO Better Work Jordan will organise a discussion meeting of these organisations to examine purpose of the study and future steps.