ILO: Dialogue between social partners vital to shaping the Future of Work in Jordan

(ILO News) A two-day Future of Work national dialogue concluded in Amman on Wednesday (October 26) with Jordanian ILO constituents agreeing to create a committee to undertake research and continue discussions around the changes taking place in the world of work.

This committee will include the ILO’s tripartite partners and will be open to youth and people with disabilities, as well as other groups. 

“Our Director-General Guy Ryder has launched last year the Future of Work Centenary Initiative, which is now the main ILO political priority,” said Nicolas Niemtchinow, Special Advisor to the ILO Director General on the Future of Work. “The debate about Future of Work is much broader than the mere description of the technological revolution.”

ILO Country Coordinator for Jordan, Patrick Daru, said the evolution of work is a subject that countries such as Jordan cannot afford to ignore.

“It is important to think ahead 20 years down the line, what will be the jobs that will come, what will be the jobs that can be fostered through effective policies,” Daru explained. “This is why we are starting this dialogue today, to have a dialogue between social partners and government, to shape the future of work.”

The purpose of the national dialogue was to exchange ideas between constituents on how best to address some of the main challenges and opportunities posed by the changing world of work in Jordan, towards achieving the ultimate goal of social justice. 

Held under the Patronage of Jordan’s Minister of Labour, Ali Al Ghezawi, the event brought together government, workers' and employers' representatives and other key stakeholders, including specialists from various fields, to discuss some of the key areas that are undergoing change in Jordan.

“With regards to the (Ministry’s) priorities, when it comes to the future, focus must be placed on re-training Jordan’s labour force and ensuring the workforce has the right qualifications to fill job opportunities. Focus must also be placed on revitalizing the economy in order to be able to create enough job opportunities to help absorb those entering the labour market every year,” said Haithem Khasawneh, Ministry of Labour Assistant Secretary General for Technical Affairs.

Around half of Jordan’s population of more than 9 million is under the age of 19. Jordan’s unemployment rate stood at 13 per cent in 2015, putting an increased focus on the need to provide jobs to a growing workforce. 

By October 2016, the number of registered Syrian refugees in Jordan had reached 656,400 - the majority of whom live in urban areas and outside refugee camps. This influx of refugees has put additional strain on Jordanian society, natural resources and economy, including the labour market. The Jordanian government, through its Compact that was presented at the London Syria Conference in early 2016, agreed to accommodate a specific number of Syrians in the labour market, in return for improved access to the European market, increased investment and soft loans. 

“Due to the demographic and economic changes taking place, which have made the issue of the future of work a key priority for the ILO and its social partners in the region, especially in Jordan, which has been particularly affected by this change, it is important to take decisive action in order not to exacerbate the situation and in order to guarantee a stable future for workers and unemployed youth,” said Mazen Ma’ayta, President of the General Federation of Jordanian Trade Unions.

The dialogue addressed topics such as managing demographic transition, maintaining social stability in the context of massive population displacement, managing technological change for more and better jobs, and managing the employment impact of climate change. 

“We are working on promoting Jordan’s industry in order to attract investment and foreign markets. This would enable us to improve the business environment in Jordan,” said Adnan Abu Ragheb, Chairman of the Jordan Chamber of Industry.

A group of youth joined the debate to give their opinion on the future of work. They will continue working with the ILO to reflect the aspiration of young people across Jordan on the future of work. 

“For me, the future of work means a cohesive society able to provide everyone equal job opportunities,” said Ahmad Takruri, one of the youth participants.

“I have a disability in my left leg. I was able to overcome my disability and get a job,” said Tharwat Al Hajjaj, Jordanian paralympian, who participated in the dialogue. “I hope that in the future, we will be able to have equal rights to others at work.”

The meeting comes in the context of the global Future of Work Initiative which was launched by the ILO in 2015, inviting all its member States to undertake dialogues based around work and society, decent jobs, the organization of work and production, and the governance of work. 

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The writer,, is executive director of the Centre for Law and Democracy. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.