Operate the Workforce…

By Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Wed 13 September / Sep 2017. 12:00 AM
  • Mohammad Aburumman

The Cabinet attentively listened to the proposal of the Minister of Labour, Ali Ghzawi, last week, outlining a three-year gradual labour development plan.

By 2021, the Minister’s plan aims to train and rehabilitate the domestic labour power in six main fields; tourism, service, industry, construction and building, agriculture, and energy.

In a few years, the suggested programme should drive down imported labour by 25 per cent in the agricultural and industrial sectors, and 10 per cent in construction.

Theoretically speaking, Ghzawi’s proposition is ambitious.

Realistically, we have all the reason to make this happen, not to mention the practical plans and resources to make it work.

However, and rightly so, our fear is that in three years, none of will be realised, as very little usually is.

We’ll be left with just the promises and plans, and none of its outcomes.

Disappointments are expected, in our experiences as Jordanians.

Who can forget the promises of the former minister of labour; dozens of thousands of jobs, on top of endless hoax employment ads, all for show!

So, to avoid further disappointments, let us all go over the facts.

One: we have a fundamental dilemma in Jordan when it comes to unemployment.

The rates of unemployment have officially exceeded 17.8 per cent, and is almost 40 per cent among the youth.

Needless to say, this is a terrifying figure; a ticking bomb, embedded in society.

Meanwhile, the scale of foreign labour in Jordan is preposterous.

There are over a million foreigners working in various sectors, from services, to home labour, tourism, construction, industry, agriculture, and trade.

Obviously, this is a complicated situation.

We are not an oil producing country which relies mainly on its own resources.

If that were the situation, then prioritisation should be the nationalisation of labour forces in key industrial and economic fields.

But that isn’t the situation; these are our key economic fields, and we don’t have an abundance of resources.

Our utmost priorities should be to restructure the labour market, and nationalise the workforce, simply put.

The title of the Minister’s programme speaks for itself; operation not employment.

Implicitly, this means we’re placing our hopes in the private sector to create jobs soon, and allocate them to absorb the national workforce.

This, however, requires an integrated and comprehensive bundle of policies, procedures, and legislation, not to mention training and rehabilitation programmes, and incentives.

Otherwise, we will not be able to meet this historic necessity or fix any of the imbalances of the labour market.

Previously, we suggested to the government to prioritise labour nationalisation and operation.

Hopefully, this time they’ll listen, and back the Minister’s programme with real effort, guided by measurable, attainable indices.

In truth, Minister Ghzawi’s programme is important, and it is a good step forward. But it isn’t enough, and it does not constitute for the tipping point we all sought for so long.

His plan does not guarantee the compliance and cooperation of the private sector.

Much needs to be done to ensure the engagement of the private sector, not the public sector, to absorb the workforce, and nationalise labour in the key economic sectors.

We need a manifesto of some sort, to kick-start and guard the endeavour to counter unemployment, by constructing an integrated legislative-technical framework.

This framework must be expandable and clearly organised, not to mention strict, encompassing a simultaneous shift in the education sector.

Moreover, it should bring together the public and private sectors to train and qualify the domestic labour force, and create jobs.

This historic task does not fall on the shoulders of the Minister of Labour alone.

In fact, this is the shared responsibility of the ministers of education, higher education, industry and trade, agriculture, public works, tourism, and municipalities, as well as the private sector.

That said, a national workshop should be launched to deliver an all-encompassing agenda, a manifesto, to direct and culminate the political and societal effort.

In the meantime, this agenda should include a number of clear, measurable milestones to keep the work in check.

Otherwise, we’ll end up going in circles, with nothing attained, as we usually do!

This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.