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Jordanian Labor Watch: 2023 was a tough year for workers and working conditions continue to deteriorate

A compilation report revealed that 2023 was a difficult year for workers in Jordan in terms of the denial and encroachment of their rights, as well as the continued deterioration of working conditions in terms of policies and practices with no signs of governmental improvement.

The annual report, issued by the Jordanian Labor Watch of the Phenix Center for Economic and Information Studies, showed the most prominent challenges and violations faced by workers during the past year, in addition to the changes that occurred in the labor market and the national economy.

The report, which monitored various issues affecting workers’ rights across the Kingdom, pointed out that 2023 saw a series of decisions to amend or issue important labor legislation, such as amending the labor and social security laws, issuing new regulations for occupational safety and health, and the system of employment offices for Jordanians, in addition to amending the unified contract system for workers in private schools.

The report outlines the benefits and disadvantages of each piece of legislation issued or amended, explaining that most of the amendments made to the labor and social security laws were regressive and not in line with international labor standards, in addition to the imbalances in the occupational safety and health regulations and the system of Jordanian employment offices, while the amendments to the unified contract system were a good step towards reducing labor violations in private schools.

The report pointed out that the Jordanian economy began to be gradually affected by the comprehensive and destructive aggression launched by the Israeli occupation on the Gaza Strip, which continues until this moment, which increased the pressure on workers in Jordan and affected thousands of them from the decline in the performance of foreign companies and their branches, which were popularly boycotted due to their direct and indirect support for the Israeli occupation and its policies, to make them a tool of pressure to stop the aggression on Gaza.

Economic sectors were also affected by the ongoing aggression on the Gaza Strip, especially the tourism sector, including hotels and tourist restaurants, according to the report, which showed that the government has not yet provided protective tools for those affected by boycott campaigns, which are considered a right of society, whether they are workers or business owners.

The report indicated that 2023 witnessed various violations and abuses against workers’ rights in the public and private sectors, such as delayed or non-payment of workers’ wages for many months, failure to include them in social security and health insurance, failure to provide the minimum requirements for occupational safety and health in the work environment, and other violations.

Among the most prominent violations monitored by the Jordanian Labor Watch are the suffering of dozens of workers in a steel manufacturing company in the Muwaqar area, who repeatedly complained about the delay in their monthly salaries, despite the fact that most of them are heads of families, in addition to abuses in an electricity generation company in the Ghabawi area in Zarqa Governorate, where the company’s management practiced several measures that the workers described as “provocative,” such as forcing them to work on official holidays and assigning them tasks that are not within their competence, most of which Another prominent labor case monitored by the Jordanian Labor Watch team is the case of 180 workers working under the “check” system at the Yarmouk Water Company in Irbid Governorate. During the past year, 180 workers working under the “checks” system at the Yarmouk Water Company in Irbid governorate have suffered from many practices and violations, as they receive low wages and are deprived of social security and health insurance, annual and sick leave, and official holidays.

At the end of last year, a labor issue surfaced in a garment factory in the Sahab industrial zone, where workers, especially migrants (expatriates), complained that they were suffering from difficult conditions, as they had been without salaries for five months and without work permits, in addition to their difficult and inadequate housing conditions, with severe water shortages and frequent electricity outages for long hours.

The medical sector in Jordan still falls short of decent work standards, according to the report, as male and female employees of allied medical professions and associate and auxiliary nurses in the Ministry of Health have been waiting for years for their demands to be met, especially those related to bonuses. In addition, internship doctors working in the Ministry of Health, private hospitals, and the Royal Medical Services who work either unpaid or for less than the minimum wage and are deprived of social security are difficult and dangerous to their safety.

Over the course of 2023, the Jordanian Labor Watch documented dozens of labor protests in various forms, including sit-ins, strikes, marches, and threats of protest. The labor groups that carried out these protests varied between workers affiliated with trade unions, workers’ committees, professional unions, workers outside any trade union organization, the unemployed, and retirees.

As for unemployment rates, the report indicated that the Jordanian economy is still unable to create sufficient job opportunities to reduce unemployment rates, which have reached very high levels compared to historical unemployment rates in Jordan and their rates in most countries of the world, as they were before the Corona pandemic (19.2%) and reached (22.3%) during the third quarter of 2023, and among young people in the 15-19 and 20-24 age groups (56.8% and 47.3%) for each of them, respectively.

The report showed that the past years witnessed a significant decline in the number of new jobs created, from 70,000 new jobs in 2007 to 38,000 in 2018, and decreased significantly during 2020 and 2021 as a result of the repercussions of the Corona pandemic, to rise slightly during the second half of 2022, reaching about 46,000 new jobs.

The report did not overlook the situation of unorganized labor, as the Jordanian Labor Watch monitored the situation of many workers who work in the unorganized sector. During 2023, the Jordanian Labor Watch monitored the situation of many workers who work in the unorganized sector, such as scrap metal workers, agricultural workers, butchers, service procurement employees, literacy teachers, and others who work on an unregulated basis.

The monitoring found that these workers suffer more difficult working conditions than others in the organized sectors, as they do not enjoy any form of social protection, especially social security, in addition to their low wages and lack of occupational safety and health conditions and other decent work standards.

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