Breaking Taboos

By: Mohammad Aburumman

تم نشره في Thu 24 March / Mar 2016. 09:48 PM
  • محمد ابورمان

A Jordanian employee at one of the hotels in Amman, tells me that a considerable number of students in Jordanian universities work with him at the hotel running different roles and errands; in the coffee shop, the kitchen, and in other divisions, splitting their time between work and school.

He says that those young men and women broke what officials refer to as the taboo culture, but no one is cutting them slack; their pays are so ridiculously small and limited, that they can barely manage expenses, and so often they finish off late shifts, incurring more costs going back to their homes. And through it all, they work hard and well.

The disparity here —in his accord, is in the fact that hotels, most of the times, prefer foreign, female employees, over Jordanian ones, even though the latter ones —with some training, can easily outperform foreign labourers. Evidence of this is that a female Jordanian worker can receive a salary below JOD200, carry the expenses of late transportation home, and in many occasions receive neither health insurance nor social security benefits. As for foreign female labour, however; foreign employees are sponsored by hotels at a relatively higher expense, around JOD300, added the provision of housing and traveling expenses. Even though, Jordanian females can do everything required of foreign labourers, better and more skilfully; still hotels, as well as other service sectors, prefer foreign female labour.

What our friend here describes can be seen evidently in Amman, and many governorates today. In a lot of hotels, restaurants, and cafes, we see Jordanian youths providing top-notch services at very high levels of proficiency, many of whom are university students or have concluded their university education.

Nevertheless, this vast segment of youths does not receive basic rights; long working hours, without regard to their university schedules, limited salaries, no health insurance or social security, and no obligation to minimum wage regulation. In spite of it all, these young men and women work hard to share their parents the costs of their education, or escape the spectre of unemployment.

The taboo culture officials blame, and so lightly disapprove of, no longer provides and explanation to the increase in unemployment or the clear imbalance in labour market structures; Jordanian youth broke this myth, and are seeking job opportunities; not even desk jobs or public sector employment. These claims are obsolete, unreal, and are inadmissible.

Clearly, officials who hang it all on this pointless, cracked, recurrent record failure of a symphony have to think of other excuses as to why they have failed to address the dilemma of unemployment.

Granted, on the other hand, other fundamental factors come in play; to begin with, companies and business owners take interest in foreign labour to avoid Labour rights and obligations. The Ministry of Labour laws do not seriously bind employers to give priority to the employment of national labour, and there is no clear, comprehensive system to regulate and organise local student labour in a way that aids in their attainment of jobs with decent pay that covers their expenses, or controls minimum wage pays, or working hours. Employers, evidently, do not want to commit to social security and health insurance. So they perfect legal ways around such obligations, unmonitored; the 3-month probation period, for example, is exploited by employers all the time to avoid legally binding long term contracts.

The same goes —unfortunately, for smaller private schools that sign up teachers only to terminate their contracts before summer in upon them, in order to avoid paying salaries over the summer vacation, every year.

Consequentially, it is important to attract investment and condition circumstance to the greater benefit as well as to that of capital and business owners. But at the same time, in order to contribute to the attainment of the primary objective —that is to provide jobs and counter unemployment, there has to be devised simultaneously, a labour law that protects and preserves the rights of employees and labourers.