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Report by Phenix Center reveals precarious working conditions in Jordan’s platform economy

A report by the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies has unveiled labor rights violations experienced by workers in Jordan’s platform economy, highlighting the impact of regulatory gaps and the rapid growth of the sector on working conditions.

This came during a discussion session held on Sunday to launch the report entitled “Fairwork Ratings Jordan 2023” which is the first of its kind to focus on the platform economy in Jordan. This initiative is supported by the German Agency for Development Cooperation and the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, in collaboration with the University of Oxford, the Oxford Internet Institute, and the Berlin Social Science Center (WZB).

The study’s findings revealed several concerning practices that are inconsistent with the principles of fair and decent work. These practices include demanding that workers pay commissions before earning any income, disparities in working hours and income, and the absence of fundamental policies to ensure minimum wage level income. These issues have resulted in significant financial and psychological stress on these workers.

The study evaluated eight different platforms operating in Jordan, including five ride-hailing applications and three food delivery services, exposing problems with timely wage payments. These challenges have negatively impacted workers’ net income due to long working hours and increased operating expenses.

Furthermore, the report highlighted a sense of insecurity among platform workers, stemming from factors such as theft, verbal abuse, and physical violence by some customers.

Complex and unclear legal contract terms were identified as significant issues for many workers on these platforms, with some documents only available in English.

Ahmad Awad, the director of the Phenix Center, emphasized that this study aims to comprehend the nature of work in this expanding sector using five key criteria: fair wages, fair working conditions, fair employment contracts, fair management, and fair representation for workers.

Awad also stressed the urgent need for improvements in wages, compensation, working conditions, contracts, management, and representation within these platforms in Jordan to ensure fairness.

Dr. Funda Ustek-Spilda, the project manager of the Fairwork project at the Oxford Internet Institute in the UK, underscored the necessity of developing regulatory frameworks to protect workers in this sector. She also emphasized the importance of collaboration between companies, governments, and workers to achieve this goal and called for greater involvement of labor representatives in defining the contractual relationship between workers and companies.

Haitham Al-Najdawi, the director of the Central Inspection Directorate at the Jordanian Ministry of Labor, acknowledged that the labor market is continuously evolving. He pointed out that current labor legal terms and definitions do not apply to those in this sector, rendering labor laws inapplicable to them.

“Workers in this sector are divided into two categories: investors using their vehicles for transportation services and vehicle providers,” Al-Najdawi explained. He added that current legislation does not grant the Ministry of Labor the authority to intervene, as the relationship between workers and companies does not conform to the traditional employment model.

Hussam Al-Saadi, the director of the Insurance Awareness Directorate at the Social Security Corporation, mentioned the launch of the “Estidama++” program, which includes many yellow taxi drivers. “This program allows them to join social security through a supported system funded by external grants,” Al-Saadi said. He supported Al-Najdawi’s statement regarding the inapplicability of current laws to workers in this sector and emphasized the need to develop policies to protect the rights of this labor category.

Hamada Abu Nijmeh, the director of Worker’s House, mentioned international labor standards covering this type of work. He stressed the need for legislative amendments and policy development to safeguard these workers and urged prompt action in this regard. He also noted that the Arab Labor Organization (ALO) is currently developing an agreement to regulate this type of work, ensuring minimum standards of fair labor for these workers.

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