Better Work Jordan starts project to improve mental health of garment workers

21 Apr 2021

AMMAN, Jordan – Better Work Jordan (BWJ) has launched a project aimed at improving the mental health of garment workers, particularly women, who form the majority of the labour force in this sector and face many physical and psychological stressors.

The project focuses on building garment workers’ resilience against mental health risks, including ensuring that factory-level support exists, and mental health referral systems are accessible by all workers.

Jordan’s garment sector employs 65,026 workers, 72 per cent of whom are women. Migrants make up 76 per cent the workforce. In satellite units, which operate outside of the industrial zones and primarily employ Jordanians, most jobs are held by female workers.

In this industry, workers, especially migrants and women, face a wide range of challenges, such as living and working conditions, including hours of work, production pressures, service accessibility, and language barriers.

On top of these factors, to which female workers tend to be particularly vulnerable, the global COVID-19 pandemic impacts can affect workers’ mental health. The mental health approach of BWJ includes identifying needs, raising awareness, mental health service provision, and stakeholder capacity building.

BWJ has already taken steps to raise mental health issues at the sectoral level to ensure that the needs of all workers are acknowledged and addressed, including hiring a new dedicated staff member to address mental well-being.

National stakeholders have shown commitment to that, as evidenced by the inclusion in the 2019 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) of specific roles for employers in supporting the mental health needs of workers.

Initially, BWJ commissioned research to understand the extent of mental health issues in the sector and potential solutions. This research was supplemented in 2020 with additional findings directly from workers and managers. In parallel, BWJ piloted a short awareness-raising training for workers and managers in the same year.

BWJ has worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) on efforts to ensure the mental health of workers.  According to the WHO, more than 450 million people worldwide are suffering from a mental disorder, resulting in an annual productivity loss of 1 trillion USD. The WHO trained BWJ on providing the Mental Health Gap Action Programme (MHGAP) and provided support on tailoring this intervention for the context of the garment sector in Jordan.

BWJ is a partnership between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The ILO flagship programme brings together stakeholders from all levels of the global garment manufacturing industry to improve working conditions, enhance respect for labour rights, and boost competitiveness. It began operations at the request of the governments of Jordan and the US over ten years ago.

As of December 2020, 88 factories were enrolled in BWJ, which covers an estimated 95 per cent of garment workers in Jordan.

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