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Jordan Addresses Alleged Abuses in Garment Sector

Jordan instituted reforms of its labor laws and strengthened its labor compliance and monitoring over the last year.

WASHINGTON — Jordan instituted reforms of its labor laws and strengthened its labor compliance and monitoring over the last year in an effort to address concerns about alleged abuses in the country’s apparel sector, the minister of labor said Wednesday.

Gazi Shbaikat, Jordan’s labor minister, and a delegation of officials from the Ministry of Labor unveiled a progress report and met with industry executives and U.S. officials last week to detail the country’s labor reform efforts in the apparel sector.

Jordan has been scrutinized for its labor practices in recent years. Most recently the Labor Department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs cited Jordan in a new annual report for allegedly using child and forced labor in the apparel industry. The country was removed from a State Department watch list this year.

“The [Labor Department] listing came as a surprise to us given what we’ve been doing,” Shbaikat said.

In the last year, Jordan instituted reforms in the country’s qualified industrial zone, including more rigorous compliance efforts, stepping up enforcement actions, increasing the number of inspectors and adding additional statutes to the labor code, officials said.

Exports of apparel to the U.S. from Jordan fell to $900 million in 2008 from $1.25 billion the previous year, due mostly to a drop in demand for goods and increased competition, officials said. Exports are expected to contract further in 2009, dropping to an estimated $800 million.