• The tenth Multi-Stakeholders Forum hosted by Better Work Jordan this week has shared the latest research findings and policy developments on labour issues in the industry.
  • Garment and related exports account for about 25% of Jordan's total exports, with almost all (94%) exported to the US.
  • Jordan was one of a number recently named in the latest Global Rights Index by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) as having made year-on-year improvements in workers rights.
Garment and related exports account for about 25% of Jordans total exports

Garment and related exports account for about 25% of Jordan's total exports

Quality job creation, sustainable and inclusive growth, and the need for more women in leadership positions in the workforce are all required in order to drive Jordan's garment sector forward, industry leaders have said.

Speaking at the tenth Multi-Stakeholders Forum hosted by Better Work Jordan yesterday (2 August), ambassadors, representatives of government ministries, development organisations, unions and private institutions shared the latest research findings and policy developments on labour issues in Jordan's garment sector.

"We will concentrate our efforts in developing skills and technical knowledge that match the labour market's needs," said Jordan's Minister of Labour, Sameer Murad. "Only through empowering our human resources, can we strengthen our middle class, grow our economy and combat unemployment."

Garment and related exports account for about 25% of Jordan's total exports, with almost all (94%) shipped to the United States.

The industry employs some 70,000 workers, with about 16,643 Jordanians and 54,215 migrant workers in 89 factories. Most of these factories are located in the Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs) in Dulyal, Irbid and Sahab. Similar to garment industries in other countries, women account for about 75% of the sector's workforce.

Yasmeen Khriesat, attending the forum on behalf of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply, described the Ministry's efforts to support businesses and accelerate investment. "The government has managed to boost the competitiveness of several sectors, balancing between the promotion of local raw materials and the facilitation of imports," she said. "These are the types of activities that help create backward linkages and overcome many challenges in the economy."

Paths to fostering inclusiveness, boosting productivity and ensuring decent working conditions for workers in line with United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were also canvassed at the forum. The Acting Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Jordan, Dr Jim Barnhart, stressed the role of the US-Jordanian Free Trade Agreement in enhancing labour conditions and creating employment opportunities in Jordan. He noted that the agreement facilitated US$3.6bn in bilateral trade last year and helped improve labour standards, strengthen labour law compliance and protect workers in Jordan.

The country was one of a number recently named in the latest Global Rights Index by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) as having made year-on-year improvements in workers' rights.

The European Union's (EU) Head of Trade and Economic section, Olfa Alouini, shared the delegation's vision on Jordan's economic outlook. In the coming years, she believes Jordan will rely on sustainable economic growth, higher productivity and technological innovation for its growth.

In 2016, Jordan and the EU signed a ten-year agreement that allows factories to export certain products tariff-free to the EU, with simplified rules of origin if they employ at least 15% Syrians in their production units for the first two years and 25% in the following years.

lAnother focus of the discussion was on gender equality in the workplace. Finding ways to promote women to leadership roles, reduce sexual harassment and close the gender pay gap are all elements of Better Work Jordan's strategy and also part of the International Labour Organization's (ILO) 'Women at Work' Centenary Initiative.

"Women empowerment, both economically and socially, is incorporated in our strategy and projects for sustainable economic development in Jordan," noted he Dutch Ambassador to Jordan, Her Excellency Barbara Joziasse.

Meanwhile, Fathallah Al-Omarani, president of Jordan's General Trade Union of Workers in Textile, Garment and Clothing Industries, provided insights on the union's activities for the year in-line with Jordan's Economic Growth Plan 2018-2022. "Better working conditions increase profit at garment factories, which is why it is essential to formulate effective partnerships with key stakeholders in the industry that further ensure all standards of compliance are met."

Better Work – a collaboration between the United Nations' ILO and the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group – brings together all levels of the garment industry to improve working conditions and boost the competitiveness of apparel businesses. Currently active in eight countries reaching more than 2m workers, the programme aims to create lasting change through assessments, training, advocacy, and research.

The ninth and latest annual update from the Better Work Jordan programme, published in May, found working conditions in Jordan's garment sector are continuing to make "important progress," but that a lot remains to be done if the industry is to move beyond compliance.

According to an overview of Jordan on re:source, the new online strategic planning tool from the team behind just-style, the apparel industry in Jordan makes up nearly 20% of the country's total exports. The US is the primary market for these exports thanks to its duty free and quota free access.