25 May

AMMAN — A workshop kicked off a series of debates on protection in the working environment in Jordan and recommendations for enhancing the social protection system for vulnerable populations.

The workshop was held Wednesday under the umbrella of the Amman-based Phenix Center for Economics and Informatics Studies in collaboration with the Worker’s House, a Jordan-based non-governmental organization which seeks to improve working conditions for laborers.

The meeting, entitled “The Dangers of Informal Work on Social Protection in Jordan,” kicked off with a debate on social protection in post- COVID-19 in the Middle East and North Africa.

Studies suggest that many workers, specifically in what is called “unorganized labor,” and lack social protection, occupational safety, proper health conditions. “Unorganized labor” refers to workers who hold daily jobs and earn variable daily wages.

The studies point to inappropriate work conditions, such as long working hours, insufficient or lack of holidays and insignificant wages to workers, said Hamada Abu Nijmeh, head of the Jordanian Workers’ House.

He told Jordan News that the ‘’unorganized labor” sector employs 48 percent of the total workers prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. The remainder hold steady jobs with monthly wages, or are self-employed, he said.

However, he added, the pandemic hiked the number of “unorganized” workers, as approximately 110,000 workers have lost their jobs, with a majority of them are expected to take up jobs in the informal sector.

“The main reason for the increased size of the informal labor is the country’s economic problems, which has weakened the chances of creating jobs opportunities, swelled poverty, and hiked violations,” he said.

Abu Nijmeh explained that social security, in its current form, is unable to cover all types of work in Jordan. He demanded the establishment of a comprehensive social security system that is not solely dependent on contributions from workers and employers.

He stressed that the comprehensive social security system must include all citizens without exception, and called for a portion of the state budget be allocated to social security, which is funded by taxes.

Abu Nijmeh emphasized that Jordan’s social protection system must be reconsidered as an essential component in reducing the number of workers in the “informal economy” and facilitating their transition to the “formal economy”.

Addressing the workshop, Abu Nijmeh said workers in the “unorganized labor” lack legal protections. “They are excluded from social security, occupational safety and have no health protection. They receive less than the minimum wages, are more vulnerable to workplace risks, and do not receive any benefits from growth, training, and competency programs, rendering their jobs unstable.”

Ahmad Awad, director of the Phenix Center and Jordan Labor Watch, urged the government to set up a sustainable insurance system so that all workers, not only those with Jordanian citizenship, can enroll in social security.

He said the self-employed, including many in the agricultural and transportation sectors, are the largest among the “unorganized labor”.

To avoid paying charges, many businesses ignore giving insurance benefits to workers by failing to register them with the social security network, Awad said.

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