Better Work Jordan launches new project to improve mental health of garment workers
Better Work Jordan has launched a new project aimed at improving the mental health of garment workers, particularly women, who form the majority of the labour force in this sector and face many physical and psychological stressors.
Jordan’s garment sector employs 65,026 workers, 72 per cent of whom are women. Migrants make up 76 per cent the workforce. In satellite units, which operate outside of the industrial zones and primarily employ Jordanians, most jobs are held by female workers.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 450 million people worldwide are suffering from a mental disorder, resulting in an annual productivity loss of 1 trillion USD and countless personal repercussions. The WHO provided support to Better Work on tailoring this intervention for the context of the garment sector in Jordan and has trained Better Work Jordan staff on providing the Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) and provided support on tailoring this intervention for the context of the garment sector in Jordan. The WHO defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
The project focuses on building workers’ resilience and mitigating mental health risks in order for them to manage work and life “productively and fruitfully.” These efforts include ensuring that factory-level support is available, and and psychosocial support referral systems are accessible by all workers. In this industry, workers, especially migrants and women, face a wide range of challenges in their living and working conditions, including significant hours of work, production pressures, limited accessibility to social services, and language barriers.
On top of these factors, the global COVID-19 pandemic impacts can affect workers’ mental health. The mental health approach of Better Work Jordan includes identifying needs, raising awareness, mental health service provision, and stakeholder capacity building to support these efforts. Better Work Jordan has already taken steps to raise mental health issues at the sectoral level to ensure that the needs of all workers are acknowledged and addressed.
National stakeholders have also shown commitment to these efforts, as evidenced by the inclusion in the 2019 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) of specific roles for employers in supporting the mental health needs of workers.
Initially, Better Work Jordan commissioned research to understand the extent of mental health issues in the sector and find potential solutions. This research was supplemented in 2020 with additional findings, from directly surveying workers and managers. In parallel, Better Work Jordan piloted a short awareness-raising training for workers and managers in the same year.