Category Archives: Jordan

Photo Essay: Migrant Workers in Jordan’s Garment Industry

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South Asian migrant workers in a garment factory in Jordan. Photo by Sabrina Toppa.

Over the past twenty years, Jordan has emerged as a critical node in the global apparel supply chain, which in Jordan employs more than 60,000 workers. Almost 70 percent of the kingdom’s garment employees are female foreign workers from South Asian countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Yet while the kingdom offers comparatively favorable labor laws for the region, many of these migrant workers are still legally and economically vulnerable. Continue reading

Great migrant hope

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Indian migrant labourers in Jordon and other West Asian countries have little to hope for unless there is considerable labour reform.

For millions of Indians who travel to the Gulf and other West Asian countries for work, the kafala (sponsor) system is a known devil. As per the system, which operates right across the region, a worker is directly recruited and, subsequently, cared for entirely by his employer. On one hand, this system aids the migration process because once a worker is hired, all his costs for securing visa and other legal documentation, along with his living expenses, like food and accommodation, are paid for. As a result, from the 1960s onwards, there has been steady out-migration of job seekers, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled, from states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and now, from Goa and Uttar Pradesh as well. The spurt in expatriate workers to the Gulf rode the 1973 oil crisis, and rising oil prices.  But the kafala system is also riddled with corruption, abusive practices and extreme exploitation because it places the well-being of the worker entirely on the firm or individual employing him, without any proper checks and balances. Continue reading

Bangladesh workers abroad face hard time

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Mizanur Rahman, a mason at a construction firm in Saudi Arabia, is worried about losing his job. His employer has recently expressed inability to continue some of the ongoing projects due to financial crisis.

The lone breadwinner of a five-member family from Faridpur cannot even begin to imagine what would happen to his family if he loses the job.

“We are not getting our wages for the last six months. We are still working for the company, hoping the situation would change soon,” said Mizanur, who has been working for Saudi Oger, one of the largest construction firms in Saudi Arabia, for around four years.

“But there is no sign of improvement… Rather, our employer has told us that he may suspend some of the projects for fund crisis,” the 40-year-old migrant worker told The Daily Star over the phone from the kingdom yesterday. Continue reading

Despite Jordan’s Efforts, There Is A Long Way To Go To Ensure Protection For Domestic Workers

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South Asian workers from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh working in Jordanian garment factories in Dhulail Industrial City. Courtesy: Rina Mukherji.

When Meilani Yuswandari, an Indonesian from Jakarta, completed her higher secondary education, she began looking for work abroad. During her search, Yuswandari met a recruiting agent who assured her of an office job in Jordan. But when she reached the country in 2011, she realised that the office job she was promised did not exist. Instead, her agent had found her a job as the domestic help of a large family, and she was forced into work she had not agreed to. Yuswandari had to cook, clean and manage all household chores, and was not allowed to leave the house under any circumstances. “The agent took away my passport and passed it on to my employer,” Yuswandari told me when I spoke to her last month. “When I asked for it, she”—her employer—“said she was keeping it safely for me. But eventually, she claimed to have lost it.” Continue reading

Despite Labour Laws, South Asian Workers Suffer in Jordan’s Billion Dollar Industries

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South Asian workers from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh working in Jordanian garment factories in Dhulail Industrial City. Courtesy: Rina Mukherji.

Unlike other countries in West Asia, Jordan lacks petrodollars. In 1996, an agreement with the US gave the country preferential duty-free and quota-free access to the American market. This was the first such agreement the US ever had with an Arab nation and saw the establishment of Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZ) – essentially, industrial zones created to service the export market. In 2000, a free trade agreement with the US furthered the relationship and also brought Jordan closer to Israel. As per the terms of the agreement, around 8% of the value addition for the products manufactured in the QIZs must come from Israel.

Today, garment exports earn Jordan upwards of $1.5 billion (as per 2015 figures), with earnings slated to further rise in 2016. Currently, there are 75 garment factories in Jordan’s five major QIZs, with 60,000 workers. Nearly 75% of the workforce here hails from South Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Continue reading

Jordan: Migrant Workers in Garment Factory

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A Nepali garment factory worker in Ad Dulayl QIZ Jordan.

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A garment factory worker in Ad Dulayl QIZ Jordan

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Factory entrance in Ad Dulayl QIZ Jordan

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South Asian and Jordanian garment factory workers in a factory  in Ad Dulayl QIZ Jordan.

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South Asian and Jordanian garment factory workers in a factory  in Ad Dulayl QIZ Jordan.

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A Nepali garment factory worker in Ad Dulayl QIZ Jordan.

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Dormitories for the migrant workers in the Al Hassan Industrial  Zone Jordan.

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Bangladeshi garment workers enjoy a dance class.

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Garment factory workers take computer lessons at the Workers’ Center in Al Hassan Industrial  Zone Jordan.