103rd International Labour Conference

Jordanian PM lauds “strong partnership” with ILO, underscores complex challenges facing Jordan

In a special address to the International Labour Conference (ILC), Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour speaks of collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the effects of the Syrian refugee crisis on Jordan and the country’s reform drive.

Press release | 09 June 2014
GENEVA - The Prime Minister of Jordan Abdullah Ensour spoke of his country’s pride in the “longstanding strong partnership” between Jordan and the ILO in his address to the 103rd ILC in Geneva.

“This relationship, which has developed as a result of Jordan’s strong commitment and adherence to the Organization’s fundamental principles and standards, continues to be consolidated through the joint activities and projects being implemented, which has resulted in noteworthy achievements,” Ensour told participants at the Conference.

Jordan was the first country in the Arab region to adopt an ILO Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) in 2006.

Through a new three-year Jordan DWCP, begun in 2012, the ILO is working with the government, workers and employers to promote better working conditions, non-discrimination and equal rights at work; extend a minimum level of social security to the most vulnerable groups of society; and enhance employment opportunities with a focus on youth employment.

General unemployment is estimated at between 12-14 per cent, and nearly half of the country’s six million unemployed are under the age of 19, putting an increased focus on the need to provide jobs to a burgeoning work force.

In his welcome comments to the Prime Minister, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said: “Your country is strategically located in a complex region. With the goal of sustainable and inclusive growth in mind, your Government is striving to balance reform and stability; to exercise fiscal discipline, while upholding social justice.”

The Syrian refugee crisis

As large numbers of Syrians fleeing the fighting in their country continue streaming into Jordan for refuge, Ensour said the crisis was placing severe pressure on the country’s already scarce finances, its infrastructure, services provision, social fabric and economy.

The labour market has been particularly badly hit, increasing the need for the government to find jobs for Jordanian host communities.

“The arrival of so many Syrians is also having an impact on Jordanians working in the informal labour market, both in terms of competition for jobs and downward pressure on wages, thus creating social tensions in communities that are already facing high unemployment and difficult economic conditions,” Ensour explained.

The Prime Minister said the Syrian refugee crisis has also "increased the problem of child labour significantly, whereby, according to our official data, they account for about 70 per cent of all child labour in Jordan."

As part of the ILO’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis, it is working with the government and international agencies in Jordan to mitigate the impact on the national labour market and support the livelihoods of host communities.

Ensour called on the international community to increase aid to the Kingdom to help it shoulder the financial burden of hosting a vast number of refugees.

By the end of 2014, registered and unregistered refugees are expected to account for over 25 per cent of the population, according to the country’s interior ministry. In January 2014, the ILO estimated the potentially active Syrian refugee labour force at about 8.4 per cent of the total active force.


Despite these pressures, Ensour said his country was pushing ahead with a reform drive which involves enhancing public freedoms, strengthening democratic institutions, adopting a new election and political party law, enhancing local government, and decentralizing government.

The reforms also address labour, social security and employment, the Prime Minister said.

“Over a decade ago, we embarked on a process of enhancing the productivity of our labour force by adopting bold educational reforms and giving the private sector the prominent role of the design of vocational and technical training. We are convinced the growth of our economy is conditional on the growth of the productivity of our labour force.”

After a wave of labour-related strikes and protests at the height of the Arab uprisings, the Jordanian government responded by placing employment and decent work at the heart of its National Employment Strategy in May 2011.