Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics studies has launched two studies on gender-based violence in the workplace and the impact of the COVID-19 on the employment of youth within the Jordanian labor market.
These studies were launched at the National Forum for Promoting the Employment of Women and Youth, organized by the Center in cooperation with Oxfam International, within the Danish-Arab Partnership Program. The studies were titled “Assessing the Socio-economic Impact of COVID-19 on Youth Employment in Jordan” and “Women’s Safety at Work”, respectively.
Mr. Ahmad Awad, the Director of the Center, states in his opening remarks that one of Jordan’s most pressing challenges is the continued decline in women’s economic participation and high unemployment rates. Awad also indicated that unless drastic changes are made in economic choices and policies – specifically, creating policy to reduce indirect tax levels and amending policies that encourage low-wage policies – domestic demand will remain modest, and opportunities for job creation will remain modest as well. He pointed out that the Youth Participation and Employment Project aims to support the removal of obstacles for women and youth to join the labor market. He stressed that government policies in this regard, which are based on reducing social protections to encourage the private sector to expand, will not generate new job opportunities.
Ms. Nikki Monga, the Regional Director of Oxfam, emphasized the significance of the research done in attempting to enhance decent work opportunities in Jordan for women and youth, as the findings of the “Women’s Safety at Work” study confirm the importance of labor policy reform and enhancing the systems for labor inspections and implementing them as needed to ensure a safe working environment for women.
Ms. Hadeel Alqudah presented the findings of the study on youth participation and employment in Jordan, which found that two-thirds of companies in Jordan cannot secure training programs for young people that can qualify them for the labor market and allow them to begin their careers, at a time where an estimated 40-60% of small and medium-sized enterprises (MSEs) will be facing reduced economic activity in the next three years. The study, which was developed as part of the “Youth Participation and Employment” project implemented by Oxfam in partnership with the Phenix Center, showed that Jordan is experiencing unprecedented unemployment rates. The study also noted that working women faced many challenges due to the pandemic, such as the closure of early childhood care and education facilities (i.e.nurseries and kindergartens), with the absence of fair policies to support them.
In turn, the Ministry of Youth representative, Dr. Yassin Halil, explained that the great challenge facing the ministry and the country as a whole is the obstacles to youth employment and the complications that increased after the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with regard to psychological support and mental health, as youth’s emotional vulnerability increased due to lockdowns.
Ms. Ghadeer Al-Khafsh, CEO of the Education for Employment Foundation, noted that the labor market in Jordan creates approximately 30 thousand new jobs annually, at a time where 300 thousand young men and women are seeking employment. She indicated that the Jordanian government should double down on its support for investment and new projects, and must intervene to support youth seeking jobs to reduce rates of unemployment.
Eng. Ziad Obeidat, former Director of the Vocational Training Corporation, clarified that the study came at an excellent time to capture the qualitative leap of the unprecedented unemployment rate increase in 2021. He encouraged the design and implementation of policies to restructure vocational training and encourage youth to join vocational training courses.
During the second session, Ms. Ola Badr, presented the key findings of the “Women’s Safety at Work” study, which indicated that there is a correlation between low wages of working women and their physical health, as women who are paid under the minimum wage of 260 JDs are denied their right to healthcare coverage and social protection.
The study found that over 46% of the study’s sample size of over 380 women in the governorates of Tafilah, Madaba, Karak, and M’an are paid less than the minimum wage, with 50% of respondents lacking health insurance and 36.6% being excluded from social security coverage. The study revealed that just 47.8% of women’s workplaces in the labor market abide by occupational health and safety practices, which means that more than half of women are exposed to work injuries of different levels of severity. Additionally, the study showed that only 13% of the respondents said that they are able to access their legal financial rights, such as accessing loans and provident funds. The study argues that these factors disempower women both economically and socially. The study also found that women’s health is adversely affected as a result of a lack of health insurance and the high costs of treatment compared with their salaries. The study also found that one of the factors leading to an increase in risk of gender-based violence is a common perception within the labor market that women are weaker, despite the fact that 13% of working women are the heads of their households and over 300 thousand households in Jordan are female-headed.
The study recommended combating violence against women in the work environment, improving their economic conditions, and enhancing their inclusion within the labor market through making concrete reforms to labor policies.
Ms. Reem Aslan, a Gender Expert at the International Labor Organization, stated that the study’s finding that excluding working women from social security represents an enormous violation against the right to social protection, which is one of the most important international decent work standards.
Ms. Ghadeer Attiya of the Directorate of Women and Gender Work of the Ministry of Labor said that women benefited from a large share of the amendments made to the Labor Code, such as wage equality reform, and the enactment of Article 72, which deals with the provision of nurseries or alternatives for the care of male and female workers. With regard to obliging the employer to train his employees to use occupational safety and health tools in the workplace, Ms. Najah Abu Tafsh, Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Directorate at the Ministry of Labor, confirmed that the legislation required the use of occupational safety and health tools, but the problem is that the laws are not enforced. She added that the Ministry of Labor is trying to increase the number of occupational safety and health inspectors in the workplace, considering that the “150 inspectors in the ministry may be too little [of an amount]” and noted that women make up 40% of the inspection staff in the Ministry of Labor. She noted that it is important for the worker to submit complaints to the Ministry of Labor, where “it is widely perceived that the labour inspector is the only regulatory body in the ministry”