Despite some improvements in compliance, gaps remain.
AMMAN, Jordan – Better Work Jordan’s 2023 Annual Report shows stakeholders from the government, employers’, and workers’ organizations engaging for a more collaborative industry. However, the report also pinpoints violations of national laws and international labour standards, especially in occupational safety and health (OSH).
Offering comprehensive findings on trends, improvements, and challenges in the sector, the report covers 86 factories participating in Better Work Jordan. It draws from multiple data sources, including assessment findings from unannounced compliance visits to factories conducted jointly with the Ministry of Labour (MoL), data the programme collects during regular interactions with factories through advisory, and survey data gathered over the last four years from workers, supervisors and managers in the sector.
The report also documents how Better Work Jordan and stakeholders have collaborated to tackle gaps in laws and regulations through sectoral policies on areas of heightened concern in the industry, such as mental health, inclusion of people with disabilities, quality of health care services, and provision of childcare.
The Project Advisory Committee (PAC) discussed the report findings in a meeting on 20 March 2023. The PAC meeting was attended by representatives of the MoL, the Jordanian Garment, Accessories and Textiles Exporters’ Association (JGATE), the General Trade Union of Workers in Textile, Garment and Clothing Industries (JTGCU), the Jordan Chamber of Industry (JCI), the US Embassy in Amman, and garment factories.
“This 50th PAC meeting is a clear and sound indicator of the success of Better Work Jordan,” said Najah Abu Tafish, head of the MoL Directorate of OSH. “We envision further improvements within the sector, especially in OSH. We just need to activate the synergy component with Better Work Jordan social partners for tangible results.”
Most factory-level engagement – monitoring working conditions and advising on improvements – is now done jointly with the tripartite partners or exclusively by these stakeholders. Labour inspectors are now a part of all factory compliance assessments, and in 38 per cent of the cases, they conduct assessments independently. The advisory function is split between the MoL, which covers OSH (26 per cent of all advisory visits), and the JTGCU, which covers social dialogue (41 per cent of all advisory visits). The remaining visits were done by Better Work Jordan.
Better Work Jordan conducts “shadowing assessments” and a rigorous quality assurance/quality control system. In the future, more training and capacity building is planned to ensure that national constituents deliver high-quality services.
The JTGCU hired seven trade union organisers to increase its presence in all industrial zones and among all workers. Fathallah Al Omrani, JTGCU president, said the union is keen to ensure compliance with national laws and international labour standards. “We also intend to build on the successes achieved over the past 15 years, it is a matter of time until pending issues are fully resolved,” he added.
The engagement from Better Work Jordan and the Ministry of Labour has been noted by stakeholders in the sector, including employers. “Over the past 15 years, we saw positive change happening driven by Better Work Jordan,” said JGATE Chairman, Ali Imran. “The progression is quite tangible, especially with MoL joint assessments, labour inspectors, and the enforcement of decent standards to protect labour rights.”
Better Work Jordan has noted improvements in the last few years in recruitment practices, including reducing the instances of pregnancy tests for migrant workers and of migrants paying recruitment fees. After stakeholders addressed these issues head-on in 2019, non-compliance rates increased as existing violations were caught, but now violations have substantially decreased.
In 2022, 14 per cent of factories were non-compliant for the issue of recruitment fees, and nine per cent for the issue of pregnancy tests, compared to 30 per cent and 55 per cent, respectively, in 2020.
As in previous years, OSH has some of highest non-compliance rates observed among factories. Key issues remain around OSH management systems, health services and first aid, and worker accommodations. OSH compliance rates have fluctuated over the last few years, but there have been sustained improvements in a few aspects of accommodations, like meeting minimum space requirements and having adequate eating and living areas.
Jordan’s garment industry had a strong start in 2022 and has generally shown resilience since the downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, USD 2.2 billion worth of garments were exported in 2022, the highest export value for the sector to date.
Better Work Jordan is mandatory for garment factories that export to the US under the US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement. As of December 2022, 95 factories employing 78,617 workers were enrolled in the programme. Migrants constitute three-quarters of the workforce, with the remainder comprised of Jordanians. The majority of workers are women — nearly 75 per cent of the production workforce. This report offers a promising benchmark of the progress of the industry and gives clear indicators on areas of focus for improvement.
In 2023, the programme seeks increased stakeholder ownership of compliance outcomes; sustainability of the Mental Health Project; research for evidence-based policy making; and increased focus on the recruitment process for migrant workers.