Over the last two decades, Jordan’s apparel industry has been steadily growing and is now the leading export sector and manufacturing employer in the country. Like most other apparel exporting countries, Jordan gained entry to the global apparel value chain through international ties to developed markets. This began with preferential trade access to the US market, which led foreign investors producing apparel on behalf of international apparel brands to set up manufacturing facilities in Jordan with mostly migrant workers.
Better Work Jordan (BWJ) is a partnership between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The ILO flagship programme brings together stakeholders from all levels of the global garment manufacturing industry to improve working conditions, enhance respect for labour rights, and boost competitiveness.
The Better Work Jordan programme is mandatory for garment factories that export to the US under the US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement. Better Work Jordan covers an estimated 95 per cent of garment workers in Jordan, as the vast majority of garment-sector employment comes from factories that export to the US.
Around 77,800 workers were employed in the exporting garment sector in 2022. Migrant workers make up three-quarters of the workforce. These workers, primarily from South Asia, typically work in Jordan for a contract of two to three years, which can be extended. Bangladeshis are the largest group of workers (over 50 per cent of migrant workers), and there are also workers from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Myanmar. Jordanian workers make up the remaining 25 per cent of the workforce. The majority of workers are women – nearly 75 per cent of the production work force – whereas the majority of management positions are held by men.
Within the exporting garment industry, there are three types of factories. The largest factories are direct exporters who produce goods directly for buyers. These factories are mostly located in the main economic zones of Dulayl, Irbid and Sahab. Below these factories in the supply chain are numerous subcontracting factories, smaller factories that produce goods for the direct exporters upon request. Parallel to this system are satellite units, which operate outside of the industrial zones, primarily employ Jordanians, and are typically small. There are currently 24 satellite factories registered in the Better Work Jordan programme that employ over 8,000 Jordanian workers
As a result of their participation with Better Work, factories have steadily improved compliance with ILO core labour standards and national legislation covering compensation, contracts, occupational safety and health and working time. This has significantly improved working conditions and, at the same time enhanced factories’ productivity and profitability.
For its part, BWJ has been delivering training at both the factory and industry levels. Trainings included garment workers, supervisors and managers on topics such as Supervisory Skills Training, Workplace Communications and ToT on Sexual Harassment Prevention.
One of the key training areas that is of great benefit and have direct impact on the working conditions in the factories is Human Resource Management (HRM). Human resources management play a key role in the success of factory’s business. By managing human resources properly, factories will be able to create a good working environment and improve the compliance with national and international legal requirements eventually leading to higher productivity at the factory level. The investment of human and financial resource is therefore crucial for a motivated and productive workforce.