COVID-19 and EIIP Jordan

Distribution of ATM cards to EIIP workers in Jordan ensures salary payments are not disrupted

Efforts to support workers employed in Jordan’s EIIP ensure much-needed salaries are paid during COVID-19 lockdown.

News | 18 May 2020

Amman, Jordan (ILO News) Workers employed in an Employment-Intensive Investment Programme (EIIP) in Jordan have continued to receive their salaries, despite a lockdown that led to the suspension of their work.
The programme, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) of the Federal Republic of Germany, through the German Development Bank (KfW) and implemented by ILO, focuses on improving livelihoods through providing cash-for-work opportunities for thousands of vulnerable Jordanian citizens as well as Syrian refugees.

Salaries of workers employed under the project are paid through the ‘Common Cash Facility’ (CCF), a platform that ensures wages are transferred in a transparent and safe way. For Jordanians, this is normally done through ATM cards distributed through banks, and for Syrian workers, it is through an iris scan payment system, which allows them to securely access their wages through a scan of their eyes instead of using cards.

Yet, hundreds of newly recruited Jordanian workers were unable to receive their ATM cards prior to the measures introduced by the government to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which saw banks and businesses shut down across the country.

In order to ensure that all workers had access to their payments during the lockdown, the ILO distributed hundreds of ATM cards to Jordanian workers across a number of districts, including Irbid, Mafraq, Zarqa, Jerash and Ajloun.

“Our donor has generously advised us to continue paying workers despite the suspension of work under the project, in order to ensure that they have available income during this difficult time to meet their basic needs,” said Simon Done, the project’s chief technical advisor. “Yet with banks across the country shut down, we had to find ways to reach workers who did not have access to their payments. This was a challenge in itself with movement between cities and governorates restricted. We had to ensure that we reached every worker, some of whom were self-isolating in remote villages, and we had to ensure that the distribution of cards to such a large number of workers was done in a safe manner.”

ILO officials were able to obtain authorisation for travel to other governorates through coordination with the Ministry of Public Works and Housing and the Ministry of Local Administration – its implementing partners under the programme.

A total of 571 cards were distributed to workers, under strict health and safety measures in line with ILO and national recommendations. These included meeting workers in open public sites and avoiding fingerprint identification to limit physical contact.

Workers were given guidelines on how to safely withdraw their money from bank machines, such as wearing gloves and masks at the bank, keeping a physical distance in queues, and following guidelines given by bank staff.

Since the start of the lockdown in March, a total of 3,280 salaries were paid to both Jordanian and Syrian workers employed as part of the programme.

Jordanian Fatima Olimat, who works on a road maintenance project in Mafraq, was grateful for the income she received through the project this month. With her husband unable to work during the lockdown, her salary was their only source of income. “I cannot imagine how we would have been able to secure food for my family if it weren’t for my salary,” said the mother of four.

Khalil Shehadat, a Syrian worker in the Bergish municipality situated in the northern governorate of Irbid, said the salary helped him pay his monthly rent and meet the needs of his six children. “The current situation is very bad, but I am grateful that I have this opportunity to work in this project even if it is for a short period of time,” he said.

Under the project, Syrians and Jordanians contribute to the improvement of local infrastructure with a focus on maintenance and cleaning of roads and highways as well as municipal buildings and facilities. EIIP is seen as an effective way to restart local economies through large-scale employment and a high proportion of budget converted to income.

The programme, which requires workers to be physically present on roads and other public spaces, is developing safeguarding measures to ensure the protection of workers once work resumes. This includes providing workers with additional protective clothing, sanitiser and facemasks, and changing some practices at work, such as ensuring greater separation between workers on sites, and providing workers with additional training and awareness raising on COVID-19 related safety guidelines.