EU Ambassador to Jordan: “Jobs are the centre of our effort to help Jordan get on a path to sustainable economic growth”

11 Jul 2019

Sahab & Madaba, Jordan (ILO News) The European Union (EU) Ambassador to Jordan, H.E. Andrea Matteo Fontana, met with Jordanian and Syrian workers on Wednesday (July 10) to hear first-hand about their experiences in accessing training and job opportunities, as part of EU-ILO initiatives that seek to promote employment and advance decent work in the country’s manufacturing sector.

Secretary General of Jordan’s Ministry of Labour, H.E. Ziad Obeidat, accompanied Ambassador Fontana on a visit to one of the five EU-funded employment centres located in Amman’s industrial area of Sahab. The centre has been set up by the ILO with the Jordanian government in order to help connect Jordanian and Syrian job seekers with employers.

The visit also included a tour of MAS KREEDA AL SAFI, the Jordanian manufacturing arm of MAS KREEDA for high-performance sportswear. Situated in the town of Madaba, the satellite unit recently recruited its first batch of Syrian workers, with the centre’s support. The new recruits join the factory’s 375 workers, the majority of whom are Jordanian female workers. The factory is one of the first satellite units to register with the Better Work Jordan Programme – a joint initiative between the ILO and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The factory anticipates to benefit from the EU-Jordan agreement on the relaxation of the rules of origin scheme which allows Jordanian companies easier access to the EU market, provided that their production lines that produce goods to be exported to the EU, employ minimum 15 percent Syrian refugee workers.

“Jobs are the centre of our effort to help Jordan get on a path to sustainable economic growth. Our collaboration with the ILO and Better Work Jordan tackles both the supply and demand side of the job market. The EU-funded employment centres, like the one we visited today, match Jordanians and Syrians with opportunities in multiple sectors. At the same time, Better Work Jordan through its assessment and advisory programme, helps companies improve standards for their employees. This helps their reputation and often leads to higher productivity. Today’s motto was “ambition” – from the side of job seekers who actively look for opportunities and from employers who want to improve and export to new markets, including the EU,” said Ambassador Fontana during his visit.

The visit was an opportunity to examine some of the outcomes of recent EU-ILO interventions to promote decent work. The EU-funded project, now in its second phase, is being jointly implemented by the ILO’s team responsible for the Syrian Response programme at the agency and Better Work Jordan. It seeks to facilitate employment and job-matching services for Jordanian and Syrian job-seekers and promote decent work principles in enterprises authorised to benefit from the EU’s relaxed Rules of Origin initiative.

“We thank the ILO and the EU for their efforts in supporting Jordanian job-seekers in finding suitable and decent employment opportunities through these centres. These centres are an important achievement in addressing the needs of Jordanian employment and we would like to see more of them established across our towns and cities in order to reach a greater number of job-seekers,” said Secretary General Obeidat following the visit to the employment facility. “We also hope to see more factories reach new European markets through the trade scheme, which is essential for the country’s growth and investment.”

“The visit today comes as part of a long partnership that we have with the European Union in Jordan. Our joint efforts have succeeded in providing thousands of Jordanian and Syrian job seekers with decent work opportunities, including in sectors exporting to the EU under the Rules of Origin trade agreement. Together, we also continue to support decent working environments in these factories through social dialogue at factory level and at sector level, systematic monitoring of decent work principles, and capacity building activities, thus making employment opportunities more attractive and productive for all,” said Patrick Daru, ILO’s Country Coordinator for Jordan.

Facilitating employment and job-matching

In 2016, Jordan took significant steps to facilitate Syrian refugee’s access to the formal labour market under the Jordan Compact. In order to meet targets set for the employment of Syrian refugees, the ILO partnered with the Ministry of Labour to facilitate career guidance and job matching services for both Jordanians and Syrian refugees.

Since 2017, 13 Employment Service Centres (ESCs) have been set up across Jordan with support from the EU and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, providing employment services for local Jordanians and Syrian refugees, such as employment and training advice, job-matching services and career counselling. In addition to the facility in Sahab, the EU is also supporting the centres located in Zarqa, Mafraq, Irbid and Zaatari refugee camp, which is run in collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

A total of 29,200 Jordanian and Syrian job seekers have been registered in all 13 centres, including 12,626 job-seekers at centres supported by the EU. The centres have helped 9,587 workers find employment, out of which 3,756 have been placed in jobs through EU-supported centres.

The facilities are now linked to the first on-line job counselling and guidance platform to target Syrian workers in Jordan. The platform, which is also available to Jordanians, offers workers improved access to employment information, job and training opportunities, career guidance and other services. So, far, 5,503 job seekers and 92 companies have registered on the platform with a total of 840 job vacancies available.

The programme has helped five companies certify to export to the EU under the 2016 scheme, by connecting them with qualified workers, enhancing their knowledge on the Relaxed Rules of Origin Agreement and providing them with technical advice on work permits and administrative procedures.

Advancing decent work principles

During its 10 years of operation in Jordan, Better Work Jordan has worked in monitoring and promoting decent work in garment and non-garment factories. This is done through the delivery of its core services including factory-level assessment, advisory and training and promoting social dialogue in the workspace. As per the agreement signed between the EU and ILO in 2017, the programme expanded its core services and made further steps towards building the capacity of the Ministry of Labour through labour inspectors’ secondment programmes as well as providing different trainings to trade unions and employer associations on occupational safety and health (OSH), sexual harassment prevention, gender and non-discrimination, contracts and facilitation skills.

To date, there are six eligible enterprises that benefit from the RoO trade scheme (3 garment factories and 3 non-garment factories) among the 90 registered factories with BWJ programme employing around 70,000 workers. The programme, in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, has also launched a Labour Law Guide application that provides an updated version of the ‘Guide to Jordanian Labour Law for the Garment Industry’ and introducing guides for each of the plastics, chemical and engineering sectors. The guides on non-garment sectors contribute to raising awareness on compliance in these sectors and support Better Work’s role in monitoring decent work conditions for sectors benefitting from the relaxed rules of origin with the EU.

More information on the EU-Jordan Agreement for the relaxation of the rules of origin

In a few words:

In July 2016, the EU and Jordan agreed on a simplification of the rules of origin (RoO) applicable in their bilateral trade. It allows producers in Jordan to use an alternative set of rules of origin for exports to the EU, provided that production contributes to create jobs for Syrian refugees.

The scheme applies to 52 different product categories including textiles and garments, engineering and electrical products, chemical products, plastic products, and furniture and wood products. The initiative’s objective is to create more opportunities for bilateral trade between Jordan in the EU, in sector where Jordan has a comparative advantage, while encouraging investment and job creation, in line with the objectives set in Jordan’s Vision 2025. The Agreement was revised in December 2018 to provide additional duration (until 2030) and a geographical extension of the scheme to the whole of Jordan.

Key aspects of the scheme:

This unique initiative is part of the broader EU support to Jordan in the context of the present Syrian refugees crisis and the regional macroeconomic outlook. It is intended to facilitate the access of Jordanian products to export to the EU, encourage investment and boost the private sector with a view of creating jobs both for Jordanians and for Syrian refugees. Following a revision agreed between the EU and the Government of Jordan in December 2018:

  • The EU is extending to Jordan the same Rules of Origin (RoO) that Commission currently applies to trade with Least Developed Countries (LCDs). The offer came as a follow up to the GoJ pledge at the 2016 London Syrian Conference in February to create decent employment opportunities for 200,000 Syrians.
  • The scheme will apply until December 2030 – a four-year extension from the initial agreement in July 2016.
  • Applicable to the whole of Jordan (as of December 2018), the agreement covers 52 product categories, with the only notable exception being the agriculture and food processing sector, which are better served under the current regime (Association Agreement).
  • Companies wishing to benefit from the scheme will have to employ a minimum of 15% of Syrian refugees in their production exporting to the EU.
  • The Government of Jordan (GoJ) has agreed to put in place specific monitoring procedures to ensure that benefitting companies comply with all requirements of the scheme; monitoring and capacity building for the Ministry of Labour will be carried out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
  • Should Jordan create at least 60,000 legal job opportunities for Syrian refugees the scheme would become applicable to all companies in Jordan irrespective of Syrian employment.

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