Jordan: Drastic improvement needed for domestic workers
Tens of thousands of domestic workers in Jordan live in appalling conditions with many forced to work up to 19 hours per day and denied their salary. Amnesty International is urging the Jordanian authorities to ensure that the current review of employment regulations leads to a drastic improvement in their working conditions.
Jordan has some 40,000 registered women migrant domestic workers. Many come from South and South East Asia, mostly from Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. According to recent Amnesty International research, the majority of these women are abused and exploited with little or no protection from the authorities.
In July 2008 the Jordanian Parliament amended the Labour Law. One amendment stipulated that a separate regulation would be issued to define the terms of employment for migrant domestic workers, including their working hours and rest periods. This regulation is currently being prepared by the government.
“We call on the Jordanian authorities to seize this golden opportunity to make the exploitative conditions currently faced by migrant domestic workers a thing of the past,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Programme Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“Their actions should be bold enough to match the scale of the abuses.”
Many women migrant domestic workers:
• live in virtual imprisonment in their employer’s home from the moment they arrive in the country. They are often locked in the home, forced to work long hours and not paid some, or any, of their meagre wages by their employer, who also confiscates their passports.
• suffer from physical, psychological and sexual abuse. They are slapped, kicked, beaten, spat at and threatened with violence, usually by members of the employer’s household. Several have fallen to their deaths in recent years in circumstances recorded as accidents but which remain inadequately investigated and explained. Around ten domestic workers are believed to commit suicide every year.
• are reported to be routinely beaten by representatives of some recruitment agencies shortly after their arrival in Jordan. The aim of this is to frighten workers and discourage them from running away or from making complaints about their employers.
Although new safeguards were introduced in 2003 in the form of a special contract for migrant domestic workers, they appear to have had little impact in practice. The special contract does not specify any punishment for the employer if the contract’s conditions, which include rights to medical care, one day off a week and timely payment of wages, are not met.
The abuse is also reinforced by the climate of impunity enjoyed by recruitment agencies, both in Jordan and in the countries where migrant workers come from, where regulation and monitoring is inadequate.
“The Jordanian authorities must subject the practices of recruitment agencies to proper scrutiny and bring to justice all those responsible for abuses of migrant domestic workers, whether they are employers or representatives of agencies,” said Philip Luther.