Jordan textile worker ‘had one day off in two years’

Female laborers are seen working in a factory in Jordan. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 September 2020

Jordan textile worker ‘had one day off in two years’

  • Rights abuses revealed in government-subsidized factories

AMMAN: Workers’ rights are repeatedly ignored in factories set up and subsidized by the Jordanian government, a nine-month investigation has revealed.

Fatemeh, 40, a textile worker in the Anjara factory near the city of Ajloun in the north of the country, said she had taken only a single day off in a two-and-a-half-year period.

She told reporters investigating the rights abuses that she is supporting a family of seven and wanted to avoid deductions to her salary.

Other women interviewed said that factory managers refused to give them sick leave, according to Shafa Qoda and Insam Ismael, two reporters supported by the Canadian-based Journalists for Human Rights.

Mohammad Shamma, head of content at the group’s Amman office, told Arab News that the report is part of a series of investigations focusing on workers’ rights.

“We have trained local reporters, and once their investigations are completed and approved by our lawyers, we publish them on the independent Jordanian news site,” she said.

Shamma said that the subject of workers’ rights has been kept “under wraps for too long.”

The reporters, both from Ajloun, investigated working conditions facing 17 female workers at three factories in the area.

“We documented cases of annual and sick leave being stopped, forced overtime, as well as health and occupational difficulties in the work environment,” they said.

The factories were created with support and funding from Jordan government to the tune of $100 million in construction costs and tax breaks.

Jordan’s labor ministry spokesman Mohammad Ziod told Arab News that the authorities have not received any complaints from workers in the factories.

“Our doors are open and we look into any and all complaints. We have created an online app that also protects those who complain,” he said.

“Nevertheless, we contacted these companies and they said that no one is forced to work overtime, and that they are abiding by the laws pertaining to the workers’ rights and occupational health.”

Ziod said that even if workers want to work and get paid on their days off, “this is not allowed according to Jordan’s labor laws.”

Muath Momani, director of Lawyers without Borders, said that while the government has an obligation to help find work for people, “this doesn’t absolve labor inspectors from ensuring that workers’ rights are protected regardless of whether complaints have been filed or not.”

Ahmad Awad, director of the Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, said: “These factories depend on low-paid jobs. Workers come from poor communities and are forced to work in unacceptable conditions in order to earn a meagre living.”

He described the situation as forced labor due to weak government supervision and the absence of labor unions.

Linda Al-Kalash, director of the Tamkeen Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights, said lack of supervision is a major problem.

“These factories have poor occupational health and safety conditions and suffer from the low minimum wage these workers get,” she said.


Pakistan witnesses significant rise in digital banking between July and September — central bank

Updated 03 December 2020

Pakistan witnesses significant rise in digital banking between July and September — central bank

  • Growth in digital payments reflects changing consumer preferences amid the coronavirus pandemic, says State Bank of Pakistan
  • Mobile phone banking users increased by 41 percent while the number people availing internet banking option reached 4.3 million

KARACHI: Digital banking has acquired increasing popularity in Pakistan since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, said the central bank on Thursday, adding that the country had witnessed 253.7 million electronic transactions worth Rs19 trillion during the first quarter of the current fiscal year.
"The most promising uptake was seen in internet banking and mobile banking transactions as the number of registered mobile phone banking users reached 8.9 million showing an increase of 41% over Q1-FY20 and the number of internet users touched 4.3 million with a growth of 26% over the same period," the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said in its Quarterly Payment System Review (QPSR) for the first quarter between July and September 2020.
During this period, mobile banking transactions increased to 36.4 million or Rs908.7 billion. This implied an increase of 139 percent in terms of volume and 211 percent in terms of value when compared with the same period last year.
Similarly, internet banking transactions increased to 18.9 million or Rs1.1 trillion, registering a growth of 55 percent in volume and 89 percent in value.
"The digital payment transactions in Pakistan have increased significantly largely due to the impact of measures taken by the SBP that created incentives for customers," the central bank said in a statement. "Growth in digital payment infrastructure as well as emergence of new payment aggregators have also been a contributing factor in this increase. Moreover, it also reflects the changes in consumer preferences for digital transactions amid the COVID-19 situation."
The country's total payment transactions increased by 23 percent in volume and eight percent in value when compared to the previous quarter, according to the report.
E-banking transactions comprise real-time online branches transactions, ATM transactions, internet banking transactions, mobile phone banking transactions, e-commerce, and interactive voice response banking.
Another major avenue of e-banking transactions is through points of sale, whereby people make transactions using credit or debit cards for shopping purposes.