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Jordan Business (Editorial): The Cost of Labor

July 17, 2006  |  Share

The Cost of Labor

Jordan Business

Editorial

June 2006 Issue

A report released by the U.S.-based National Labor Committee (NLC) last month, alleging abuse in the Jordan's flourishing garment industry, should open our eyes to how we treat foreigners in all sectors of the economy.  Regardless if the report is exaggerated or not, (which, according to the Jordan Business' findings, it most likely is), it raises the issue of how Jordanians look at and treat foreign laborers, whether they are from China, Egypt, Sri Lanka or other parts of the Third World.

Cases of abuse are not limited to factories in the Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZs).  Reports also come from homes, farms and schools, where employees are forced to work well over the legal 48 hours a week, wages are delayed or withheld, overtime is not compensated, and workers are generally treated as inferior beings.  These people come to Jordan specifically to earn a wage unachievable in their own countries, so what does this conduct say about us?

Yes, we acknowledge that sweatshop labor is a global problem, and exploitation of Third World workers by many corporations is no longer headline news.  But when we, as an Arab nation that purports to conduct itself according to a certain standard of morals, fail to observe basic levels of ethical treatment, this magazine believes that violators should be held to account.

No wonder, then, that Jordanians aren't interested in filling jobs in the garment industry, agriculture, construction and other blue-collar positions.  In some cases they lack a positive work ethic, preferring to sit rather than work, or they suffer from the infamous "culture of shame" which dogs some Jordanians into rejecting these types of jobs.  But it is also often the case that the pay and working conditions at these jobs are simply unacceptable by any standard, leading firms to import workers from overseas.

The Ministry of Labor (MoL) last month raised the minimum wage to JD110, certainly a step in the right direction in attracting Jordanians.  If the MoL does regulate the workplace, ensuring that basic rights for workers are guaranteed, then perhaps we will find more Jordanians in these sectors.  Rewarding good employers may help weed out those with unfair practices.  The other key issue is training.  The ministry has launched several training initiatives, but so far it seems we are not succeeding in adequately preparing Jordanians for the thousands of potential jobs available.  To fill jobs, Jordanians must possess the right skills and be trained in appropriate disciplines.  This is not the government's responsibility alone.  The private sector also has to step up to the plate, and Jordanians themselves have to change their attitudes towards work.

Ghadeer Taher

Editor-in-Chief

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