07 Jan

By Razan Abdelhadi, Jordan News

AMMAN — Due to the efforts of the Ministry of Labor until the beginning of November this year, 6,635 workers, out of 10,192 who were dismissed from their jobs during the pandemic in violation of the Labor Law or of the defense order, could return to their jobs, the ministry spokesman Mohammad Zyoud, told Jordan News.

Zyoud said that Defense Order No. 6 contributed to the sustaining of job opportunities in the private sector because it curtailed worker layoffs; moreover, due to it, work contracts were renewed more than three times, regardless of the duration of their contract. 

The government and the Social Security Corporation have also launched several programs that contributed to supporting the private sector, including the “Estidama” program, “which has contributed to preserving the jobs of about 111,000 workers” of both genders, said Zyoud.

The Ministry of Labor is working to improve vocational and technical skills, and offering training programs through the Vocational Training Corporation, according to Zyoud, who said that the ministry aims to provide skilled and trained labor that is adequate to the market demand.

Not everybody agrees with the ministry’s position. 

Hamada Abu Nijmeh, head of the Workers’ Center Association, told Jordan News that “it is better to lift all the defense orders related to the labor market, especially when they have loopholes that led to compromising workers’ rights, through wage cuts and loss of jobs, which also contributed to an increase in unemployment rates.” 

Abu Nijmeh said that in the light of the pandemic and its repercussions, the government needs to take measures to protect the economy and the rights of the citizens, and in particular, support weak institutions and workers by protecting their jobs, providing social protection to vulnerable citizens, mostly day laborers, and reviving the national economy by enhancing the purchasing power of the citizens.

“However, what the government did during the pandemic was to resort to reducing workers’ wages in order to support the affected institutions, which harmed the incomes of nearly 500,000 workers and decreased their purchasing power. This led to harming the private sector, and even state revenues, and contributed to the economy finding itself in a state of stagnation,” said Abu Nijmeh. 

It is a mistake to think that the difficulties private sector institutions face can be addressed by reducing workers’ wages, he said, adding that “solutions” adopted by the government, such as lowering workers’ wages, deepened the economic and social problems, and “caused an unprecedented increase in poverty rates as a result of job losses, lack of income and significantly weakened citizen purchasing power.”

Maen Qatamin, former minister of labor, told Jordan News that the Defense Order No. 6 contributed to maintaining the unemployment rate relatively unchanged and that “without the defense orders, the percentage of unemployed would have been much higher.”

Employers complain that the order prevents them from hiring new employees with much-needed skills.

Defense Order No. 6 of 2020 was issued in April last year under Defense Law No. 13 of 1992, by the government of then prime minister and minister of defense Omar Razzaz.

It aimed to protect workers' rights in various economic sectors in light of some sectors gradually returning to work while the curfew continued, according to the Jordan News Agency, Petra. 

It outlined procedures for certain employers whose operations had been suspended under the curfew for submitting requests to the government to pay their employees at least 50 percent of their usual wages, and procedures for employers who were unable to pay their employees. 

It also included the conditions for institutions and individuals to benefit from support programs in light of the economic challenges caused by the pandemic.

In a related development, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nasser Shraideh said on Tuesday that the unemployment rate in Jordan fell to 23.2 percent in the third quarter of this year, and by 1.6 percent compared to the second quarter of 2021.

During his meeting with the Economy and Investment Committee of the House of Representatives, Shraideh said that the unemployment rate among young people decreased to 44.9 percent in the third quarter of this year, while it had decreased to 48.5 percent in the second quarter of the year.

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