When one thinks of the Middle East, thoughts typically go toward products like oil. The idea of the Middle East being a growing industrial center for garments is almost laughable. That is, until one sees the impressive growth achieved by the Jordan garment industry.
The Kingdom of Jordan has built a reputation for being one of the safest locations in this region, despite war on its northern and eastern borders. More than 1 million refugees have come in from Syria, seeking shelter. Yet, since 1994 when Jordan made peace with Israel, the garment industry has transformed Jordan from a dry Kingdom with few resources to a global industrial headquarters for garments.
As part of the 1994 peace treated, qualifying industrial zones were created so that better access to the U.S. market, through Israel, could be created. In the first days of this treaty, those who benefitted the most were those who could rake profits off the top. Today, however, the Jordan garment industry is worth billions and continues to grow.
Interesting Jordan Garment Industry Statistics
#1. More than 80 garment factories are currently operating in Jordan. 13 of them are currently located within a qualifying industrial zone within the Kingdom. (Better Work Jordan)
#2. The population of Jordan is over 6 million, with nearly half of the population age 19 or younger. Factories in the Kingdom are required to pay their workers a minimum wage of at least $155 per month, which is actually lower than the national wage. (Better Work Jordan)
#3. The official work week for the Jordan garment industry is an 8-hour day, 6 days per week. Labor laws in Jordan do not stipulate maximum working hours or overtime, which can be forced. (Better Work Jordan)
#4. Women make up 60% of the employees found in the Jordan garment industry, which is the largest share of employment in any industry found in Jordan. (Better Work Jordan)
#5. Exports generated by the industry in 2010 totaled $1.05 billion, making up 16% of the total exports for the country. More than 35,000 employees have work because of the industry and countless more indirect jobs are available because of its presence. (Better Work Jordan)
#6. 75% of the workers in the garment industry in Jordan are classified as migrant workers, with a majority of them being women. 36% of migrant workers come from Sri Lanka, while Bangladeshi natives provide another 22% of the labor force. (Better Work Jordan)
#7. There are 75 factories in Jordan that produce t-shirts, fleece, towels, and underwear. These factories account for 95% of the Kingdom’s industrial workforce and produce 95% of the country’s apparel exports. (Business of Fashion)
#8. The dinar in Jordan has more value than the US dollar, which increases the value of the exports throughout much of the world. Current trading of the Jordanian dinar is equal to $1.41 in U.S. currency. (Business of Fashion)
#9. Classic is the leading manufacturer of garments in Jordan. On its own, it accounted for about 13% of the total exports that were sent to the United States. The company was established in 2003 and has grown from 300 employees to 15,000 employees that produce 200,000 garments. Its annual turnover is more than $250 million. (Business of Fashion)
#10. In rural areas, women tend to withdraw from the workforce when they get married. For employers like Classic, that equates to employee turnover rates of up to 20% per year. (Business of Fashion)
#11. Local employees are more expensive to hire than migrant workers for the garment industry. Local workers receive 80 dinar for living expenses per month, in addition to their salary with a mandatory minimum. Migrant workers receive in-kind payments for food, housing, and living costs. (Business of Fashion)
#12. Even though the unemployment rate in Jordan is about 12%, there are about 40,000 workers in the garment industry who are imported for their labor. (Business of Fashion)
#13. In a 2014 survey of Kingdom-based garment factories, Better Work Jordan found that 33 of 55 that export goods to the United States has made improvements in all compliance areas from inspections completed the year before. (Business of Fashion)
#14. The total export values for the Jordan garment industry have achieved 20% annual growth in the past 5 years. (Jordan Economic and Commerce Bureau)
#15. Lead time from Jordan to Europe is 18 days right now from the garment industry. To the Far East, the lead time is 23 days. For the U.S. market, lead times average about 28 days. (Jordan Economic and Commerce Bureau)
#16. Revenues generated by the Jordan garment industry were estimated to have grown by 10% in 2017 from the $1.3 billion in 2016 that the World Bank estimates were generated. (Middle East Eye)
#17. In 2011, there were 42 separate strikes from employees in the garment industry about managerial issues, dorm conditions, and even food or water access. Now there are about 10 collective cases which involve 50-100 workers each year. (Middle East Eye)
#18. From the latest figures, the Jordanian garment industry makes up about 20% of the country’s GDP, benefitting from tariff-free entry to the U.S. market. (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
#19. The industry continues to struggle when trying to recruit local workers. From 2011-2013, 19,000 open positions were advertised for local workers. Only 4,000 applications were received for those jobs. (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
#20. From 2013-2014, 90% of foreign employees in the Century Miracle factory had their passports seized, despite the action being illegal. (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
#21. 90% of migrant workers in the Jordan garment industry send remittances back home, which creates higher levels of intentional or unintentional debt bondage. (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
Jordan Garment Industry Trends and Analysis
Political turmoil tends to be the primary threat that faces the Jordan garment industry today. The Kingdom is the only remaining active participant in the battle against terrorist groups. Shoring up internal security will continue to be a top priority for the industry.
Since 2016, the United States has removed the Jordan garment industry from their List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor, where it had been placed since 2009.
With its unique location, access to the busy port of Haifa in Israel and the U.S. market beyond is a jobs generator for the Kingdom. About 20,000 people have work today because of this industry and tens of thousands of migrants have come to Jordan to find work as well. The factories in Jordan have developed a reputation for delivering good work by a promised time.
Change is coming from a political standpoint. For the Jordan garment industry, the attitude is one where it is business as usual.